Monday, September 26, 2011

TITULUS TO LOGLINE TO PITCH in just 3 easy millennia

Patricia Deuson is my guest today. Her debut mystery, Superior Longing, is now out. It looks like a good read!
Superior Longing
When books were written on papyrus scrolls, a tag or titulus, a scrap of papyrus usually, was attached to the outside of the scroll to identify its contents. Tituli were, in effect, the title page, the contents table, and a brief summary of what the scroll was about. It let a reader pick one scroll from the bins in the stacks room that would interest them. Then they’d take the scroll to a central table in the reading room or out to a nearby breezy colonnades to read. The early them.
What does a logline do? It boils the story down to its base. How? By telling three very important things, and only these three things: who the story was about, what the protagonist’s goal was, and what stood in the way of that goal. And no more. And it did it in just one sentence. A writer can create a logline for their story so they have a ready answer for friends who ask “So, what is your book about?” in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them with detail and is fast, just in case the friend was only being polite.
Another real benefit of a good logline is that it gives a writer direction, helps keep them focused and on track. It’s short enough to be tacked over the writing desk as a constant, nagging, reminder as you wend your way thru the ins and outs of your tale, just where you are supposed to be going.
But there’s another use for a logline. Now that you’ve honed and refined the meaning of your story by developing a logline, use it to create the perfect pitch. Expand the one sentence logline to a three minute, three sentence, focused, intriguing story that will interest an agent or editor enough to ask for more. How? Easy! And now you have three whole sentences to work with.
A pitch has to convey the dramatic heart and soul of your story without being boring or confusing. First sentence is your hook, your plot catalyst, where you tell what gets your story going. Next sentence? Give ’em some intriguing plot, character or setting details. Who is in this story? What happens? Where does it take place? How is your story different, even unique? And finally, you’re on a roll now, sketch out the climax and resolution. How does it all end? Tell them, but leave them wanting more. So they’ll ask you for the first 20 or 50 pages or the whole manuscript. And you did it in just three sentences. That took you days, weeks, or months to perfect, but don’t tell them that.
But a pitch is only something written on a piece of paper, unless you use it. You’ve got to actually tell someone about your story or it’s just practice. And that’s what you’ve got to do: practice, practice, practice. In front of the mirror, the dog, indulgent friends, or a spouse. When you’re ready, try out that pitch for real. Best of luck!
Thanks, Ellis, for inviting me to your blog!
Pat Deuson’s first book, which she pitched just perfectly to Echelon Press, is SUPERIOR LONGING,  the first of the Cooks Inn Mysteries. It’s available at these sites:

QR Code
 Smashwords  http://tinyurl.com/pd-sl-Smash 
OmniLit http://tinyurl.com/pd-sl-Omni

This is my first attempt at a QR code. I think if you scan it with your smart phone, it will take you to Pat's website information. (My phone isn't smart :-)Try it and see!
If this doesn't work, just go to http://nevamooremysteries.blogspot.com/ to find her.

14 comments:

Ramona said...

I love the comment that the log line needs to capture the dramatic heart of your story. Perfectly stated.

P. A. Deuson said...

Thank you, Ramona!

Una Tiers said...

Great information, I'm particularly impressed with the QR code, very high tech Patricia!
Una Tiers

P. A. Deuson said...

Thanks, Una! I just saw my firs QR in a magazine ad. Who knows if they'll really catch on but given there's already an app for it - I'd think yes!

Ellis Vidler said...

I'm still playing catch-up. I need to learn more about QR codes and how to use them.
I found the log line information interesting. Now all I need is some magic distillation process so I can pour in my story and have a good one come out.

P. A. Deuson said...

Ellis,

A great idea! I'm in favor of writing by magic. Nice thing is writing does sometimes seem like magic - when you write the perfect sentence or the flow is just wonderful.

However this logline stuff is hard nosed I think - requires a steely eye, and great courage. Or you could get someone else to write it for you, like the original loglines, although the results might be shockingly practical.

Pat

DV Berkom said...

Great post, Pat. I always have such a hard time with loglines. This definitely helps!

P. A. Deuson said...

Thanks, DV!

The Hollywood formula does simplify things. It's still tough to do - but as writers we're used to being tough on our work [although VERY sensitive when other are] and can probably winnow it down.


I wonder if anyone wants to post their logline[s]?

Pat

Cali Cassels Hicks said...

Pat, I love the way you boiled it down to a logline! Narrowing down the story to one or even two sentences is the most difficult part of writing. Thank you for stressing how important it is to do!

P. A. Deuson said...

Thanks, Cali.

If you follow the almost mechanical logline formulation then you have a base for the pitch. The really great thing about a pitch is the embarrassment it saves when someone asks what's your book about and you look as if you don't know. And it could help you make a sale.

If we're the first to read our stories, maybe we should be the first to read the pitch too.

Pat

Polly said...

Ah, so easy. And so hard. Terrific post, Pat. Now I'm dying of curiosity. Mind sharing your logline?

P. A. Deuson said...

Polly,

Here's one of 42 words for Superior Longing:

Neva Moore, admin at Cooks' Inn, located on the California coast, is obsessed with finding the truth behind her uncle’s death, so follows a path thru small town politics, smuggling, and superstition until it ends with another death on an icy lake.

Pat

Ellis Vidler said...

Pat, nice description. You included the things you mentioned, including the problem.
Here's mine (a work in progress): "When Claire Spencer is attacked, she hires PI Ben Riley to find out why. They find that everything she believed is a lie, but the truth is . . . Cold Comfort." If I need to give the location, I could say "When Williamsburg shop owner Claire Spencer . . ." Would that make a difference?
Polly, give us one of yours.

P. A. Deuson said...

Ellis,

I think it's just great. I was asked for a log line [and was trying to imagine myself chewing gun and wearing too much makeup in a 1930s Hollywood studio back office somewhere] which is 1 sentence.

You've written a pitch, although you need another sentence to 'sketch out the climax and resolution. How does it all end?' to make it a 3 sentence pitch.

Pitches are more dramatic and need to entice, but since you're also 'selling it' you need to tell them how it ends so they'll want to buy, while a log line just informs. You write great atmosphere so you will come up with that 3rd sentence!

Pat