Patricia Deuson is my guest today. Her debut mystery, Superior Longing, is now out. It looks like a good read!
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: