What’s your twitch?

At the Thalia Press Virtual Launch party last week — which was a fun, two-hour chat session (join us next time by “liking” Thalia Press on Facebook) — a bunch of us yakked about all sorts of things, literary and not. Publishing, mysteries, e-books, and my strange fascination with polka music. And one other thing that stuck in my mind, thanks to our friend Keith Snyder who asked: What’s your elevator pitch for Thalia Press?

Our elevator pitch? Good question. Katy and I fumbled a bit, threw down some crap, then the conversation raced forward to other subjects, as chats often do. I didn’t forget about his question though. While catching up on my WIRED magazines I ran across a short column on this very subject. Apparently the term “elevator pitch” is a bit dated. Thanks to geeks who had to market their cyber ideas during the tech boom, the elevator as a container is a bit passe. According to Scott Brown, these days a short, pithy description of your idea or project is more likely called a biztweet or a twitpitch or just a plain old twitch. All referring of course to Twitter and its 140 characters.

So far I’ve managed to avoid Twitter. Knowing how few people are curious about me might tip me over the edge. I’m just old enough (or perhaps way old enough) to be freaked out by vast, 24/7 information sharing. But I get the idea of the twitch. It isn’t about Twitter; it’s about distilling your idea into a user-friendly chunk of understandable awesomeness. The antithesis, says Brown, of the gassy sound bite. Not a small part of an idea, but a miniature version of your big idea, a yacht in a bottle, fully functional but tiny.

To perfect a twitch of your novel you have to understand your story. You have to look past your subplots, your character arcs, even past the external shell of the events of your main plot. You have to see the core of your story, its power, its strengths, its primal force. You have to use that x-ray super vision and see under the skin to the beating heart of your story.

None of that is easy if you are the writer of said story. Even a five page synopsis can be torture. It should be easier, you would think, to write an elevator pitch, a biztweet, for Thalia Press, our publishing venture. “Re-introducing entertaining mysteries to new readers in new ways”–? “Finding fresh audiences for favorite stories about crime, mystery, and bad-ass women.” Okay. So I need to work on it. I did come up with what I think is a cool tag-line, related to our namesake, the Greek goddess Thalia. As the muse of comedy she entertained the gods with her wit. So our line is: “Amuse me,” she said. We like to think our novels will amuse you. But amuse me, she said is a bit too short to be a biztweet. A tag-line is not a twitch.

But you do have to condense. Scott Brown suggests: Glib is good. Lousy ideas often reveal their weaknesses when offered in crystallized form — if they can be crystallized at all. So, off to work on the twitch for my new novel. If it can’t be crystallized that will tell me something too. We used to say you had to be able to write your pitch on the back of a business card. Now we can just count characters. 140 or less, got it. Distilling the vision of 100,000 words — well, I don’t have it yet, but I’m working on it. It focuses the mind, this twitching.

Make sense, be bright, or get off. Couldn’t have said it better, Mr. Brown.

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