By Michael Neff
on her blog, the subject of query letters and pitches came up yet again. What she seems to grasp is that you can't have a good pitch or query without a good novel to back it up. Does that go without saying? It should. But if so, why do thousands of writers send out dull or bad queries, and pitch agents or editors with novels that don't stand a chance?
If you follow a model for a good pitch, i.e., a 150-200 word punchy synopsis-like summary that produces the first major plot point but doesn't give away the climax, and you're sufficiently self-critical, you should finally come to an understanding of the worth of your project. Keep in mind that by forcing your story into that specific model, by forcing yourself to "fill in the blanks" so to speak, you're inevitably led to understand the major strengths and weaknesses in the novel itself.
For example, if the body of the pitch, once heard or read, evidences zero plot tension or dramatic complication, it might well be the result of no real antagonist (among other things) available to create one (this is a common failing with new novel writers), and if this condition proves true upon further discussion with the author then we have a case of the pitch tail successfully wagging the novel dog. In other words, the weak or vague pitch led the author to understand why the novel wasn't working, thus strongly encouraging a rewrite from the very first page.