While I wait for my critique partner’s edits on Ride to the Altar, I’m brain-storming other ideas, conducting research for a western romance, and reading the how-to best seller, Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need.
In case you’re wondering: no, I’m not writing a screen play. But that doesn’t mean I can’t find valuable info in this book. Countless novelists have read it and come away the wiser for it.
The first chapter offers the advice I’ve heard before: develop your log line (or one-liner or elevator pitch) before you start writing. Actually, this advice may have originated with the author Blake Snyder and has been passed along ever since his book came out in 2005.
The reason it’s been passed along is because it’s great advice. If you pitch your novel to agents and editors, you’ll need a log line, because the first thing they’ll want to know is what your book is about. And if your experience is true to the reason “elevator pitch” is an alias for “log line,” then you’ll want to whip out your answer before the door goes ding.
The same is true if you sell like I do—to the public at festivals and group book signings. Once people see the beautiful layout I have at my table, they’ll stop and browse. I have seconds to gauge their interest and pitch a book. Seconds before they bore and move on. If I can hook them with my log line, then my time with them is expanded and I can give them a more in-depth reason why they can’t go another day without discovering whether JoJo finally jumped from the plane.
But another reason the advice is great—a pre-writing reason—is that it helps you keep focused. If you determine what your book is about before you write, you’re more likely to stay on track. It doesn’t have to be written in stone, and you can change it as you go along, but it’s a terrific jumping-off point.
Here are some of the projects I’m noodling:
Southern Challenge, Contemporary Sweet/Christian Romance (comedy)—Kayla Mullins spent megabucks on a cutting horse with a heritage of prize-winners but discovers she has no clue how to train it. Can the previous owner’s son come to her rescue?
Untitled Christian Fiction (drama)—After yet another school shooting rocks the nation, one mid-sized city tries an experiment: putting God back in the classroom. Will He make a difference?
Untitled Women’s Fiction (drama)—After her grandmother dies, [Successful City Heroine] returns to the old home place by the river and tastes again life at a slower pace. Will her responsibilities draw her back to [the City], or can she find fulfillment where her heart calls home?
Untitled Western Historical Romance (comedy)—Cowboy Cal Harding stumbles upon a beautiful blonde, far from home and penniless, and gets her a job as a Harvey Girl. Now that she can live as a mature, independent woman, how can he ever convince her to marry him?
Notice I ended each short paragraph with a question, advice I’ve received from outside Save the Cat, but good advice just the same. It puts the conflict out there to hook the potential reader—and to guide me through my writing.
What about you? Do you have/use log lines? Ever pitch a book to an agent or publisher or the general public? Do tell!