This post is #10 of a 10-part series in the lead up to a writing conference being hosted by Fiona McIntosh (October 2019). Please follow along with my weekly posts as I share some writing tips and experiences I’ve gained while writing my manuscript and preparing for this wonderful opportunity.

Well, I did it! I’ve created a special 10-part blog series for you, sharing my tips, experiences and lessons I’ve learnt as I’ve pushed myself to fine tune my manuscript and prepare for Fiona McIntosh’s National Conference. So, it seems only fitting that my last post in the series is about the ONE LINE I need to get through the conference — the log line! Read on to see why this seemingly simple sentence puts fear in every new writer…

Do you know what a lot of writers have in common? We are born storytellers. We’re the kids that didn’t shut up in class, who were named Little Miss (or Mr!) Chatterbox and probably headed up the school debating team. We know how to play with words and we love to tell a good yarn.

So it’s a cruel kind of torture that we are required to take our manuscript — the one we have laboured over for months or years, edited carefully and polished until we were cross-eyed — and condense it down to one, tiny, miniscule sentence!

Not going to lie – I have been struggling! How can I accurately sum up my novel? What if I miss a crucial ‘sellable’ detail? The worry is real, guys!

Why do we need a one liner?

At the upcoming conference there will be new writers, established authors, publishers and extended industry experts to meet and learn from. I need to get used to introducing myself as an author and talking about my written work… 

This is where a log line comes in handy (an elevator pitch is the next step with a few more details, followed by a written synopsis).

The idea is that the single descriptor is what you use when you’re asked by anyone, ‘What’s your story about?’ I have been thinking about it as the one liner that I might see on Netflix when I’m trawling through looking for something to watch, like:  

  • The Help: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid’s point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
  • The HangoverA Las Vegas-set comedy centred around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken misadventures, then must retrace their steps in order to find him.
  • The Shawshank Redemption: Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

(Above examples from: Film Daily TV).

How do I write my own?

I’ve definitely had to reach for help. My favourite author-teacher is Jessica Brody — I’ve sung huge props for her book Save The Cat Writes a Novel in this post — and she just happens to have another excellent resource called The Complete Guide to Getting Published

In the guide she breaks down how to create your logline (among many other tips), by defining three key elements — Character, Concept and Conflict.

…every longline should tell you who the story is about, why he/she is special (or in other words, why do we care enough about the character to want to read the story) and what is standing in the character’s way. – Jessica Brody

I highly recommend you read her book and learn from the examples she shares. I’ve suggested this book to some of my writing friends and they’ve ALL said what a good resource it is.

How do I know it works?

There’s only one way to know your log line is as polished as can be: Say it out loud! Try out your line on anyone who wants to listen and see what they think? Are they interested by what you shared or are they missing the hook? 

Write it, read it and say it out loud!

J x

PS Join me — virtually — at Fiona McIntosh’s National Conference next week on Instagram. I want to share lots of pics, quotes from experts, and perhaps, if I get a bit tricky, a video or two!

Read the rest of this series: