Rotten Loglines

Last week, I submitted a logline for critique by strangers. First off, the stranger part is always scary to me, but I relaxed when I saw no one trashed it. The consensus was “not enough detail.” Oddly, I had the opposite problem drafting a query letter.

I realized when you are too familiar with a book, it’s easy to think you’re telling more in a one-line synopsis than you are. It’s similar to the way you fill-in missing information when seeing a movie adaptation after you’ve read the book. So, I agree. It needs more detail.

That brings up the question of logline length. It’s usually described as a one-sentence pitch, but very few of those submitted in these rounds have been one-liners. Some suggest no more than 25 words total, but the contest I hope to enter allows up to 100 words. Confusing.

At least three of those who critiqued my entry questioned why I describe my novel as Women’s Fiction since it’s obvious the main character is male. *Sigh* But an equal number complimented me on my novel’s title. *Yay*

I’m revising the logline even though the odds of getting accepted for The Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction are slim. In my division, only the first 40 entries will be considered, with only 15 of those accepted for the auction. If I don’t make it, at least I’ll have an elevator pitch ready. Though the last time I rode in an elevator was three months ago, and if an agent was in the vicinity s/he was invisible.

Hmmm, maybe I’ll just get in the habit of spouting my logline whenever I step into an elevator, just in case. And hey, agents have to shop, so maybe when I’m in the mall I could …

Your turn: Tell me about your logline. How long is it? Did you have any trouble writing it? Did you write it before or after you wrote your novel?


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25 thoughts on “Rotten Loglines

    1. Alannah, it’s actually a film script term. It’s usually a one-sentence summary, the briefest of synopses. Literary agents call them elevator pitches, meaning how you would describe your book if you found yourself in an elevator with them and had just 30 seconds to pitch it.

      Edited to include Cathryn’s comment that elevator pitches are longer than one-sentence. On further checking, it seems elevator pitches can be much longer. Again, definitions of terms vary. 😉


      1. Ah! Okay, so it’s a one-liner. Never knew the technical name used in film. Like that a lot. Coming up with mine actually helped me see where I’d gone wrong in writing the novel. If only I’d attempted to write the logline first, I think I would have saved a lot of hassle…


  1. Linda, You are the queen of the enticing questions!

    My log line is 12 words.

    I had a horrible time writing it … many, many, many tries. I wrote it after the novel was complete. That taught me that for my WIP, I’ll write it earlier. I have a first draft and will write the log line while I’m tearing that apart next month.

    I believe the elevator pitch is slightly longer than a log line.


    1. The contest I spoke of seems to have an unusual view of loglines. I presumed one sentence, but nearly all of them are at least two, and quite a few are three or four sentences. These arbitrary definitions are so confusing. 😦 And thank you for correcting me on the elevator pitch.

      I’ve heard some people advise writing the logline, or even full query, BEFORE writing the novel. I don’t know, but it definitely wasn’t easy afterward, so maybe they’re right. Let me know if it works better doing it after the first draft.

      And thank you for wishing me luck. 🙂


      1. It is very confusing, I agree.

        To me, writing it before the novel might work for a “high concept” novel, but for me, it’s better to have some sense of the story and then use the log line to help ensure the story is focused, to start thinking about theme.


  2. Hi Linda! Hmm…I didn’t actually have a logline/tagline for LITTLE GALE GUMBO and have lately been trying to come up with one (better hurry, Erika!)–I did make one for my WIP since I needed to send one to my editor and it ran about 25-30 words. I think the concept of my WIP made for an easier time coming up with the tagline–I think that makes a huge difference but of course, as they’d say, every book can and should be able to be condensed into a tagline so it can be marketed and find its audience–can’t wait to hear how the auction goes!


  3. I enjoy writing loglines, elevator pitches, and paragraph synopses every once in a while; they’re easier than finishing the novels. Better than that, they help me understand when I’m not focused enough. Short synopses are harder to write when I’ve lost sight of the main conflicts of the story or the likely expectations of the genre’s readers.

    My most recent loglines are 23 words for DeCo and 29 for RITN. Linda, I’ll email them to you if you want.


  4. I have a two-sentence, sixty-seven word description of my novel. It seems like a lot of information jammed into two sentences. I didn’t have as much trouble writing it as I thought I would. I had the first draft finished in five or ten minutes. I wrote it recently for a comment somewhere. I cannot remember what blog. Since then I’ve tweaked it once. Blessings to you in getting accepted in the Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction!


    1. That’s more the length of the other entries at that site, Carol. You made me laugh. I’m not sure I’ve written a first draft of any sentence in five or ten minutes … then again, I don’t do first drafts. 😉 But I’m positive I’ve never tweaked anything just ONCE. I hope I get my logline tweaked enough in time to enter that contest. Either way, it’s good experience.


      1. Eight-year-old David kidnapped by two small-time criminals escapes to tell his struggle to his new friends; he introduces them to Buddy, the great white dog he believes God sent him as answer to prayer, while the sheriff and his staff strive to find the boy, and family members agonize not knowing if they will ever see their beloved David again.

        Oh! It looks too long! And I tweaked it again. Should I keep tweaking? Tell me the truth. I don’t think I could possibly say it correctly in an elevator.


  5. First off, Linda, good luck!

    Second, like Cathryn, I’ve heard of writing the log line before the story. In working with my novel’s second draft (if you can call it a second), I have written something of a log line. But even that needs some serious rewriting, I think 🙂

    Talk about a *sigh*….


  6. I always thought a logline was one sentence. But maybe that’s a tagline, or a hookline, or a hey-read-my-book line. But if other people are writing two or three sentences, jump on that train. 🙂


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