Writing loglinesPosted: March 31, 2014
In just over 24 hours, NestPitch submissions open. Submitting writers will provide details about their manuscript includuding their logline and the first 300 words, which will then go through slush readers (or slush bilbies) for shortlisting before being chosen by the nest bloggers.
Finally, the chosen pitches will be posted to hopefully get scadloads of agent requests. We’ve got ten agents participating from nine agencies. It’s exciting stuff.
I’m one of the slush bilbies for NestPitch. (I like to imagine a shy marsupial drinking an iced treat through a straw. Who’s with me? Anyone? Anyone?)
I’ve blogged before about how hard shortlisting for these sorts of contests is. But I know from experience that as hard as it is to judge them, it’s just as hard to muster the courage to enter in the first place. I’ve been there. Believe me.
So if, like me at this point before a submission window opens, you’re in a last-minute agony of indecision about whether you’re ready to go, here are my tips for writing an awesome logline.
What’s a logline?
It’s the answer you give when someone says, “So, what’s your book about?”
In 35 words or less. Easy, no?
Tips for writing a logline
There are three things you need your logline to do:
- describe the main character (you don’t need to name them)
- describe the antagonist (or main challenge)
- describe the stakes
What you don’t want to do is describe the ending. You want to hook the reader, make them want to offer you representation/a contract/money/booze.
If you’re struggling, one thing I’ve found really handy when writing loglines and query letters is to use the when/then structure. When X, then Y.
For example, here’s my logline for Lucid Dreaming, the new adult urban fantasy I’m currently querying:
When half-Oneiroi dream therapist Melaina banishes a nightmare spirit from a client, she unleashes the wrath of an enemy who targets her job, her best friend, her family and her life.
I’ve had a few different versions of this, where I’ve toyed with how to describe the Oneiroi (dream spirits) — because, unlike vampires and werewolves, they aren’t a particularly well-known supernatural beastie. In this version I’ve tried to make sure the dream context is clear from the rest of the pitch.
You’ll note I didn’t reveal who the antagonist is, because one of the story’s elements is the mystery of who is actually behind the attacks. If that weren’t the case, I’d add it in there: jealous ex-boyfriend or demon-spawn shopkeeper or cheerleading cyborg. You get the idea.
I saw an awesome quote about loglines that I’m going to claim as though it were my own:
Don’t tell the story, sell the story.
Good luck, folks. See you in the slush pile!