When I first started working on TOB, I did a bunch of planning and storybuilding. First I refined the idea, and then I worked on character, setting, and plot-- in that order. My basic idea for the GPRP is to follow that structure again, deepening anything too shallow, clarifying anything too murky, and trashing anything too ill-made to fix.
First up is to refine the Idea, with a single exercise: write a pitch. For the uninitiated, a pitch is a 50-300 word description of a novel, not unlike the blurb on the back of a paperback. The pitch is used by authors to hook agents, and by agents to hook publishers, and by publishers to hook readers. If you're interested in getting published, sooner or later you need a pitch.
I allotted three hours of writing time for the pitch, which might seem like rather a lot for something I hoped would fall in the 100-150 word range. But it is surprisingly difficult to reduce a 90,000 word novel to two short paragraphs. It's much easier to do with something you didn't write yourself.
I used the pitch-writing exercise in Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, which consisted of jotting down some basic information about your novel (title, genre, protagonist, setting, a main story problem), along with whatever details make your story unique. Then you set a timer and write a first draft of your pitch in five minutes. And then edit the heck out it!
I worked on it for an hour and a half. When I made the GPRP, I didn't notice that the book recommends setting the pitch aside for a week and then editing it again with some distance, but I'm taking Maass's advice and moving onto character work tomorrow. I'll finish up the pitch next week.
This is what I got today: 136 words, and I can tell it needs more work, but:
In a far-future New England populated entirely by redheads, nineteen-year-old Willa Bresher escapes a life of domestic drudgery for an apprenticeship with the mysterious "Bridgers"-- a guild of mind-linked stewards who guide the flow of goods and information between villages. But when she encounters a dark stranger in the ruins of an ancient city, Willa's path begins to veer off course.
The world is changing. Space dwelling humans have returned to resettle the plague-devastated Earth, and their intentions toward the aboriginal Terrans are unclear. Now Willa must follow Akenam, an infuriating and intriguing "spacer", to a distant island to join five other envoys at a summit meeting that will determine the future course of all their civilizations. There she will explore wonders and unearth secrets, as well as confront danger, love, and her own complicated political destiny.