I've pitched two literary agents since last September. One responded with a generic rejection. The other never responded. The creation of the pitch, to me, is torture. I've gone through hundreds of drafts. Before blasting my query to a wider swath of agents, I want to get it right. But how to distill 100K words into 300? How to create distance from a manuscript I've spent years with?
Sunyi Dean's query for her unpublished "Anchor" manuscript is badass. I totally want to read that book. It's haunted me since I discovered it a few months ago. I'm so indebted to the candor of her blog posts. They made me feel as if I had company on this desert trek while introduced me tons of resources.
In his Master Class course, Daniel Pink talks about the Pixar pitch. I think it's helpful, but rote. Nothing inspires.
Yesterday, I thought I had an enticing pitch.
After his son is cremated, Donald Marcus encases the ashes in a memorial ring which he welds to his bone. It's to be a permanent symbol of undying love — until he chops off his finger in exchange for a map. To find success, the gods of profit demand loss.
Marcus has found a book that identifies sixteen traits that all successful people have. Scientists in the Reset era have discovered where each resides in the human mind. Marcus’ job: identify the people with the highest concentration of each trait, and steal it. Then his employer will repair his ‘custom organic intelligence.’ He needs Coi to read the book so he can resume his original goal: converting its lessons into video hacks, and make himself successful by teaching others how to succeed.
Like most Resetters, Marcus is illiterate. And hardly anyone gives a shit about success in an era when pleasure is cheap and satisfaction is state-sponsored.
But Marcus wants to succeed. Must succeed. No other way to justify his sacrifice of family and friends, or reconcile the hollowness within for the promise without. No point in living unless he maxes out the man he’s capable of becoming. Along the way, Marcus is forced to answer: Does desire guide or misguide? Must his higher self be realized or released? Why is success on more minds than his own?
Last night, my wife and I watched Pixar's Soul (amazing), so today I decided to watch its trailer and documented its flow:
So I decided to toss my story into this formula.
Like human sunshine — that’s how her handshake feels. When she embraces him later, he can’t believe how enchanted he feels. Donald Marcus has travelled across the desert to place a ring around her head, and steal her Pleasing Personality. She’s one of sixteen human obstacles standing between mediocrity and his higher self.
Marcus has found a book that identifies sixteen traits that guarantee success. In an era of ubiquitous video consumption, a book is a rare artifact. Rarer still is the ability to read. Marcus acquires a custom organic intelligence to read the book aloud — not so he can cultivate the skills himself, but to convert its lessons into video hacks, and become successful by teaching others how to succeed.
He wears the ashes of his cremated son in a tribute ring, and communes with his wife in her perpetual state of decaying half life. When “Coi” explodes before reaching the second chapter, Marcus refuses to lose more. Its creator agrees to replace the intelligence if Marcus does a job. He must find the people with the highest concentration of each trait identified in the book he can’t read, and return with all sixteen traits in a head-sized ring called a receiver.
Marcus’ best and only friend, a “nonhuman” with consciousness, accompanies him until tragedy strikes. Then, Marcus must rely on a stranger’s help. Therese was so inspired by Marcus’ first and only video that she stalked him cross-country until finding him half-dead and crazed on the floor of a jewelry shop. Together, as they track down the country’s most successful people, Marcus and Therese discover that every gain demands commensurate loss. Along the way, Marcus confronts whether his higher self should be realized or released, and why success on more minds than his own.
I'll give it overnight to review, but I think that's an improvement.
"The great majority of artists are throwing themselves in with life-preservers around their necks, and more often than not it is the life-preserver which sinks them. Nobody can drown in the ocean of reality who voluntarily gives himself up to the experience. Whatever there be of progress in life comes not through adaptation but through daring, through obeying the blind urge. 'No daring is fatal,' said Rene Crevel, a phrase which I shall never forget"
- Henry Miller, Reflections on Writing
"With all your science can you tell how it is, and whence it is, that light comes into the soul?" - Thoreau, Notebooks, July 26, 1851
"Tell me if anything was ever done ... Tell me ... Tell me ... Tell me if ever I did a thing ... Tell me if anything was ever made." - Leonardo da Vinci, to himself in his notebooks
"... it bolted off like a runaway horse, taking far more trouble over itself than it ever did over anyone else; it gives birth to so many chimeras and fantastic monstrosities, one after another, without order or fitness, that, so as to contemplate at my ease their oddness and their strangeness, I began to keep a record of them, hoping in time to make my mind ashamed of itself." - Montaigne, On Idleness
Henry Miller: "If, say, a Zen artist is going to do something, he’s had a long preparation of discipline and meditation, deep quiet thought about it, and then no thought, silence, emptiness, and so on—it might be for months, it might be for years. Then, when he begins, it’s like lightning, just what he wants—it’s perfect. Well, this is the way I think all art should be done. But who does it? We lead lives that are contrary to our profession." Via The Paris Review
"I thought and pondered—vainly. I felt that blank incapability of invention which is the greatest misery of authorship, when dull Nothing replies to our anxious invocations. Have you thought of a story? I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative."