The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘elevator pitch

Every author (published and underpublished) knows — in order to drum up interest  — you need to have a short, catchy description of your novel. One you can spurt out in the time it takes to ride an elevator from the first to the fifth floor. It’s a struggle to condense a gripping 100,000-word novel into one sentence that will hook agents, editors and readers.

Writers like words, lots of words. And we don’t like leaving anything out. That makes for a constant battle between  succinct and complete.

While I scanned USA Today’s Best-Selling Books List recently, I discovered that there are many authors who have mastered this drill — in 12 words or less.

A white woman tells the story of black maids in 1960s Mississippi. (The Help, Kathryn Stockett)

A poor art student stumbles upon a duffel bag filled with diamonds. (Kill Me If You Can, James Patterson & Marshall Karp)

Trouble and coldness descent on a kingdom. (A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin)

I was impressed by how they boiled down three-, four-, five-hundred page novels into one concise sentence. So I checked out other best sellers that have appeared on the list during the past five years – just to help me focus.

Thought you might want some help too. So here are 12 more “book list loglines.” This time, though, you’re gonna have to match them with their title.

The answers are at the bottom, so don’t peek!

TITLES

A. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

B. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

C. The Art of Racing in the Rain

D. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

E. Love in the Time of Cholera

F. Water for Elephants

G. Playing Games

H. For One More Day

I. To Kill a Mockingbird

J. Nineteen Minutes

K. The Alchemist

L. The Lovely Bones

LOGLINES

1. Journalist is hired to investigate the disappearance of an heir to a wealthy family.

2. Post-World War II epistolary novel set on English Island.

3. 1960 coming-of-age classic about racism.

4. Murdered girl peers down from heaven to narrate this story.

5. A novel that reflects on what it is to be human, told from the family dog’s point of view.

6. Shepherd boy searches for buried treasure.

7. Mother and her baby are separated.

8. Love, drama in a circus in the 1930s.

9. Troubled man spends a day with his dead mother.

10. Aging man and woman renew their youthful romance.

11. Act of violence shatters small New Hampshire town.

12. Female toymaker rescues her daughter from heartless kidnappers.

SCROLL DOWN FOR ANSWERS 

ANSWERS

1. Journalist is hired to investigate the disappearance of an heir to a wealthy family. — D. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

2. Post-World War II epistolary novel set on English Island. — B. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

3. 1960 coming-of-age classic about racism. — I. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

4. Murdered girl peers down from heaven to narrate this story. — L. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold

5. A novel that reflects on what it is to be human, told from the family dog’s point of view. — C. The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

6. Shepherd boy searches for buried treasure. — K. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

7. Mother and her baby are separated. — A. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards

8. Love, drama in a circus in the 1930s. — F. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

9. Troubled man spends a day with his dead mother. — H. For One More Day, Mitch Albom

10. Aging man and woman renew their youthful romance. — E. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

11. Act of violence shatters small New Hampshire town. — J. Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picoult

12. Female toymaker rescues her daughter from heartless kidnappers. — G . Playing Games, Claire Yezbak Fadden (caught you on that one!)

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

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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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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