Archive for October, 2013

October 24, 2013

Why Your Novel Needs a Logline

by Nancy Smay and David Joyner

What’s your book about? You’ve spent days, months — perhaps years — putting words on the page and living in the world of your book. So why is this question so hard to answer?

It’s because the asker — whether it’s an agent or your aunt Trudy — expects a quick response that will hook them and make them want to read your book (or let them know it’s not for them).

What they’re asking for is a “logline” — a one- or two-sentence pitch about your book. Loglines capture the “hook” in your pitch. Agents expect you to have a logline at the ready, whether you’re querying them by email or meeting them at a conference.

This post will give you suggestions and help you find resources to create a logline. Remember, this is an art, not a science.

  1. Loglines originated in the screenwriting world, so it’s no surprise that some of the best suggestions come from the Raindance Film Festival. According to them, a logline for your novel should include a description of:
    • Your protagonist
    • Their goal
    • Your antagonist/antagonistic force
  2. Don’t use a character name, but tell us something about your main character(s).
  3. If you can, include the stakes and/or a ticking time-bomb.
  4. Setup: Some scripts operate in a world with different rules to our own and require a brief setup to explain them, e.g. most science fiction stories.
  5. About the ending: Don’t reveal the script’s supercool twist ending, even if it is the next Usual Suspects. (Endings should never be revealed in a pitch or query; a synopsis, however, requires every twist, and the ending, to be outlined clearly).

The bottom line? Don’t tell the story, sell the story.

Here are some examples of great loglines from movies based on a work of fiction:

To Kill a Mockingbird:

In a racially-segregated Depression-era Alabama town, an attorney defends a black man accused of rape, while teaching his kids to rise above racism.

The Wizard Of Oz:

After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home.

Rear Window (based on Cornell Woolrich’s story “It Had to Be Murder”):

A photographer, confined to his New York apartment by a broken leg, becomes fascinated by his neighbors’ activities as observed through his rear window. Before long, he begins to suspect one of them is a murderer.

Here’s a parting thought: If you can’t write a decent logline for your idea before embarking on the script or novel, reconsider writing it. If it’s unfocused and muddled at the logline stage, it’s probably not going to get any better as you write!

Some resources:

October 22, 2013

Fall 2013 Issue of Pen in Hand is Ready for Download!

The Fall 2013 issue of Pen in Hand, the quarterly newsletter of the Maryland Writers’ Association, is hot off the presses! The issue (PDF) is available for download here.

In this issue, you’ll find:

  • Wilson Wyatt on publishing in the digital age
  • Elizabeth Bastos on writing anxiety
  • Reviews of recent meetings and previews of upcoming speakers at MWA Chapters
  • Poems and short stories by Cathy Wu, Kyleigh E. Parks, Pamela Armstrong, Pete Koziar, Lindsay Stroh, and Andrew McDowell
  • . . . and more!

Download your free copy of Pen in Hand here. Back issues are also available on the MWA website’s Newsletter Page.

October 19, 2013

Calls for Submissions: International Ebook Awards and Saroyan Prize

The organizers of two literary contests recently contacted MWA to invite members to enter:

  • William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
    Entry Deadline: January 31, 2014
    Information and entry forms:

    Nominations are now being accepted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Two prizes of $5,000 each are given biennially for works of fiction and nonfiction. Cosponsored by the Stanford University Libraries and the William Saroyan Foundation, the awards are intended to “encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan legacy of originality, vitality, and stylistic innovation.”

  • International Ebook Awards
    Entry Deadline: December 31, 2013
    Information and entry forms:

    The Ebook Academy is hosting the International Ebook Awards to spotlight the best of the best in the ebook community. Through our awards, ebook authors will gain promotional brand building that will help them gain considerable exposure and sell more ebooks. One award will be given in each of the following categories: adult fiction, adult nonfiction, children/young adult fiction, children/young adult nonfiction, cover design, and video trailer. International Ebook Awards winners will receive a digital award sticker, a quote from award judges, a book review, social media coverage, a press release with distribution, and a one-year enrollment in The Ebook Academy. All entrants receive an honorable mention digital sticker and a press release and distribution. The judging criteria include writing quality, effective and engaging communication, ebook format/layout, cover, uniqueness and creativity, and overall impression.