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.

Writing Passion

I read a lot of books about writing. Each one is different and contains some bit of information (or more than one) that takes me in my path to become a better writer.

The most recent one explores, as part of setting goals, passion. Part of it deals with the “one-sentence pitch.” (I’ve always heard it called a premise.) I wrote one before my most-recent in progress novel, “Four young teens whose goal is to each be ‘normal’ are beset by nightmares sent to them by a desperate other-being who wants to regain his freedom.”

Moving on from that, the book also explores goals as a writer to show how to give each story your own unique mark. Examples given:
“I want to write X stories with Y and Z. (I want to write sensual stories with suspense and intrigue.)
X and Y are what writer Z is all about. (Spunky heroines and slapstick comedy are what Jack Doe is all about.)”

I wonder how many of the authors I know use a formula like that. I think I write in several different areas, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love each of them. In one way, you can see it easily getting slated for one genre- sensual stories might put someone in romance, for example. It also works across genres to say that perhaps the action stories the author chose to write would have a sensual side.

I’ve been giving it some thought. I’m working on my own words to fill in X, Y, and Z, but I just haven’t found them yet.