Thorny Pitches

Do you call it a logline or a premise or a one-sentence pitch? And by whatever name you call it, is it really that much different?

The logline’s history starts with scriptwriting, so if I have a novel, do I want to call it a logline?

The premise is a one-sentence summary of a novel, which may or may not be nearly the same as the one-sentence pitch.

Whichever one you think you’re writing, it has to be catchy. Ever feel sorry for all the industry professionals who have these short pithy sayings aimed at them all the time? From Oh, I’m in the elevator with an editor, time to spout out my pitch, to Bathroom break, I think someone’s in the stall next to mine – it’s an agent, I can tell by the shoes! It’s enough to make me glad I’m not one of them.

Well, almost. I think it’d be really cool to discover books, but from the things I read on Twitter via #pubtips, well, wow, there are some bad queries out there. There must also be some great ones, because books keep getting published.

The trick of all those one-sentence dealies in the beginning is word choice. It takes them forever to be crafted, but once they exist in a pretty form they’re helpful. Remember Mark Twain’s words, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

I mean, what if the first Percy Jackson book was called The Lightning Bug Thief? That just gives an entirely different picture of the book.

The same concept works for pitches, or anything else in a very short form that must get people excited about the project. We’re writers – we need to use our words. There are so many of them out there just waiting for their turn in the spotlight.

It also means we need to stop thinking the first draft of a premise is the correct one. The first draft of anything usually needs a lot of coaxing to shine.

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