The Page a Day Writers Group

Going Up! Honing the Elevator Pitch

Posted on: December 1, 2009

Some call it the elevator pitch; others know it as the log line or hook line.  It’s that all-important summary, the one every novelist — published and unpublished — is suppose to rattle off at the drop of a hat.

All of us struggle to write it, memorize it and practice saying it. Those few words are designed to catch an agent’s attention, hoping she’ll say: “Wow that’s great. I want to hear more.”

I’ve been working and reworking mine for months. And at the last meeting of our writers group, one of our members read it, crossed out 13 words and improved it exponentially. Thank you Trish.

Still I toil over this brief recap of a story that’s taken me 90,000 words to tell. In a recent Writer’s Digest interview, novelist James Patterson emphasizes the same point. He tells the interviewer, “You’ve got to get a story where if you tell it to somebody in a paragraph, they’ll go. ‘Tell me more.’ And when you start to write it, they continue to want to read more. And if you don’t, it won’t work.”

Think of an elevator pitch as a concise, carefully crafted and well-practiced synopsis of your work of fiction or nonfiction. You need to be able to recite it seamlessly in about 30 seconds — the time it takes to ride up an elevator.

The cold facts are — if you can’t pitch your novel in 30 seconds then you’re taking too long. And if you can’t relate the plot of your novel in one short paragraph (three or four sentences at the most) then you’re using too many words. Head back to the drawing board to rework it. This is a bare-bones assignment. Cut out the fluff.

Re-read your elevator pitch. Does it:

1) Tell what the book is about.
2) Clearly state what the problem is.
3) Outline the goal of the protagonist.
4) State opposition (conflict/action) to the stated goal.

If not, get back to work. Those few words may be the hardest you’ve ever written. We all know it takes more time to write brief and concise. Like Mark Twain once said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

EXTRA INFO: At the Writers Store website, Jonathan Treisman offers some great ideas for writing loglines that sell. Visit http://www.writersstore.com/article.php?articles_id=231 for more ideas.

— Claire Yezbak Fadden

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4 Responses to "Going Up! Honing the Elevator Pitch"

Hey I just found this site, and lo and behold, I recognize a lot of the names here. Can I find out more about the group? Do I need to learn a secret handshake? (Nice post, by the way, Claire, and congrats on finishing your novel!)

Hi Louise! Nice to see you here. I hope you’ll join our discussion and contribute your valuable experience.

Kirsten

Claire,
Thanks for reminding me that I need to start working on my elevator pitch! 🙂

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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