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Why You Need a Killer Logline

novel, writer, author, self-publish, indie

You’ve completed your manuscript. Congratulations! What’s the book about? 

Does this question stop you cold? How do you summarize your novel into the tiny and dreaded “elevator speech”?

Here’s an idea: why not start with the elevator speech, or “logline,” and work your way up? My friend, author Jim Misko, has a killer logline for his next book. He says, “It is the story of a first-year teacher hired into a dying school district by a controlling Superintendent who intends to go down with it.”

What if you had something like that to start with? You’d know where you were going the whole time. You could avoid drifting off course. When people asked you “what’s the book about?” you could actually tell them. And at the end, you wouldn’t have to cram five pounds of sugar into a one-pound bag.

After I published Dakota Blues, I heard Chuck Sambuchino speak at a conference. Chuck was an editor at Writer’s Digest Magazine, and has written books about the publishing world, including the well-known Guide to Literary Agents. At the conference, he told us about his “The Five Versions of Your Novel from Short to Long.” He suggests you create them in this order:

  1. Logline. This one sentence summarizes and sells your book. Its main goal is to entice a reader. Think of it this way: if you and your friends are trying to decide what movie to see, how would you describe your choice in one sentence? “It’s about a 70-year-old widower, who hates being retired, so he lands a job as a senior intern at a fashion website.” (The Intern). Or, “An American attorney must negotiate the release of a U-2 spy plane pilot who was shot down over Russia at the height of the Cold War.” (Bridge of Spies)
  2. Pitch: What you read on the back cover of a book. A paragraph or two.
  3. Short Synopsis: Two pages or less, double spaced. A front-to-back telling of the story, boiling it down to its essentials.
  4. Long Synopsis: Seven to eight pages, double spaced.
  5. Manuscript

What if you tried writing your book from short to long? You could test the idea as you wrote, and you wouldn’t end up with an unworkable concept. Or maybe you would, but a whole lot sooner! Way more efficient, don’t you think? Or at least a whole lot easier than starting with Number Five and working your way backward!

(This post was shared by Lynne Spreen.)

nutshell, concise, brief, legal

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