Lose the Must

If you all didn't know, over the holidays Agent Jessica Faust over at Bookends took pitches and randomly critiqued them. Of course I read through them and added one of my own. :-)

Some pitches were good, interesting, succinct. Some were not. And some just made my brain hurt. In all of these, a common word began to pound at my eyes.


The hero must do this. The heroine must do that. But somehow the pitches were not setup in such a way that I felt like the protagonist "must" do anything.

This is bad, but I'll confess it anyways. All those musts began to annoy me. I began to grit my teeth every time I saw one.

Lesson: Don't use must. Just say what the protagonist decides to do.

I just discovered this pet peeve, so I hope I haven't offended anyone with this post. It's only my opinion, which is only worth the value you give it. :-) Anyways, I thought you all would be interested in reading those pitches. It is a great exercise to see what works and what doesn't.

Did you read them? What stood out to you?

*I've never pitched an agent before so this is only my unprofessional opinion. I have no background in pitching at all.*



I've been reading about active vs. passive writing, and it makes sense that "must" would be passive. I think you're right to be bothered! :)
Sarah said…
I started reading through the pitches, but then I got antsy and went straight for yours! :) I had to scroll a ways, but I thought your book sounded fantastic!

You make a very good point about "must". I couldn't help but notice how often I read "must," although I probably wouldn't have noticed except for reading your blog first. Lol
Sorry Kristen. Today, that "r" word is not in my vocabulary.
Grocery shopping with three boys does something to the system. Something very bad.
Hey Janna,
Hmm, I didn't even think of must being passive. You know, it just kept jumping out at me and started to bug me.
Could've been my mood though. LOL
Hey Sarah,
After awhile the pitches do get jumbled. I think that's why agents like one paragraph. So much easier.
Thanks for saying you like mine. Unfortunately that manuscript needs more work, *groan* but maybe soon I'll get to start sending that pitch out in a query. :-)
Danica Favorite said…
I don't mind the must so much, except that so many people use it without making it meaningful. She MUST do blah blah blah... or what? So what is what I say to most of them.
Anonymous said…
Okay, the "must" thing CRACKS me up ... teehee. But it's true, we all have our pet peeves.

The only thing that stood out to me on those pitches is how many of them say so much without saying anything at all. Convoluted. It's like they're trying to fit the entire book into the paragraph and end up making two or three paragraphs, yet somehow miss the inciting incident or the emotional conflict and just end up giving a bunch of random details that they deem exciting for whatever reason.

Unless the story has some kind of emotional drive being pitched to get us to want to know this character and their story, the agents and publishers are going to pass on it. Mind you, I'm not being judgmental ... pitches are HARD to write.

Some managed to do it, but it seemed like the majority have a ways to go; still, the best way to learn is by having someone like an agent tell you what you're doing wrong, so it's a nice thing BookEnds is doing. :-)
Hey Danica,
I never even noticed before, not until reading fifty pitches with that word in them. LOL
You seem to be right. As long as the reader feels it, then nothing is wrong with "must".
You're so right. That's why my head hurt, because so many details and pic of the story forming.
Hi Jessica -

I think the overuse of any word will grate on the nerves.

I didn't read the pitches. Mom and I have been at the doctor's office, the hospital, and the lab. Yours truly has the garden variety virus, but Mom has either bronchitis or pneumonia.

Talk to you soon,
I hope you two feel better. Get lots of rest. :-)
I MUST leave a comment. Maybe the writers simply MUST say what they're saying that way?

Or MUST they? The word itself begins to MUST. ;-)
You're funny. :-)
I almost didn't see your comment down here.

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