I’ve got an exciting idea, my major plot points or disasters, the main antagonist, and my main character. But I haven’t fleshed out any details or know how all the subplots will connect. Or even exactly what will happen in the climax.
I’m ready to open my Snowflake software and get to work. (The snowflake method was created by Randy Ingermanson. Check it out.)
First, I write the logline: a one sentence pitch that covers my main character, her goal, the conflict, the stakes, and possibly the antagonist. (I don’t include the antagonist if that is meant to be a surprise.)
For extra help, I read pitch contests on blogs. Great research. Is my idea there? (Hopefully not.) Which ones stick out at me? Which ones would I pick if I were an agent?
The ones I like are all unique and specific. And they sound interesting. In other words, they had a great hook.
No phrases like:
…and her world is turned upside down.
…and he has to fight for his life.
…and she discovers a terrible secret.
…and her past comes back to haunt her.
These are vague and don’t say much about your plot. Be specific. Be unique.
How many of you form a one sentence pitch before writing? As a pantser, do you have that information in your head?
The StoryQueen challenged me to do this over the summer and it really helped me figure out that all important hook for my story. Boiling it all down to a simple pitch is hard, but it really makes you focus.
Well worth thinking about… especially the well-worn phrases.
Laura, I find that when I do take the time to write a one-sentence pitch, my writing is more focused. I often change the pitch later, when I know more about my story. But it gives me a good starting point – and an idea of whether there is enough in my idea to turn it into an entire book.
Sherrie – And for me, boiling it down to a one sentence pitch is harder after I know all the details! And the one sentence does help keep me focused and narrow it all down.
Carole – And I”ve used plenty of them in my time, esp. when I first started writing query letters! Yikes.
Andrea – I’ll end up changing the pitch too sometimes! Nature of the beast.
Useful post. Clarity is often what my ideas lack to start with, so I ask myself a range of questions to try to simplify who wants what and why that is going to be a story. Essentially it is, as you say, a pitch! I often try it out on friends too. If I get an interested reaction, I know that’s a good direction. If I get a ‘ho-hum’ polite nod, I know it needs more.
I think I always try to pack too much in. This is a good reminder to really know the defining meat of the book!
Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse
Roz – That’s why I do it too: to make sure the story is worth investing in and to make sure I don’t get 50 pages in to have to start again!
LOL. Not only are we both blogging today about plotting, we’re both snowflakers. 😀
Angela – When I write the pitch after the whole story is thrumming around in my head, then I try and pack in too much because I want to include everything!!!
Stina – I noticed we were both in the same stage! But I didn’t realize you were a hard core plotter. Except you’re querying and my manuscript is sitting so i can gain perspective.
I think it’s a great idea. I did it with my second book. In fact, I wrote the whole query and it has really helped me to identify the story.
I wrote the pitch for my WIP, first time I’d ever done that BEFORE finishing the book, and I plan to keep doing it. I plan to also work on the query before the revisions are completely done.
Patti – Once I tried doing it once, I’ll never go back.
Marcia – I love writing my query early and then throughout the first draft and revising getting it to a somewhat decent version. It helps so much to go for a couple weeks without looking at it!
Hooray for the Snowflake! The first time I used it, I hesitated to change the one-liner as the story evolved, so it’s a great tool, but know there’s always lots of work ahead and it’s meant to evolve with the manuscript. But SO helpful for getting me to focus!
Great idea. I’ve never written the pitch first, but now that you mention it, that would be helpful. I think I’ll give it a try.
I’ve never started with a logline, because my story idea is usually fuzzy enough that I’m not sure where it’s going!
Someday I’m going to have to try the snowflake method though. It sounds like fun.
Susan and Lydia – I guess it depends on how much you like to pants it. Really there’s not much difference b/t a pantser and a plotter except I let the story form before I write and they let it form as they write. But it still forms and ideas still come and we all rewrite. I just rewrite more outlines than I do written pages. 🙂
I form a one sentence pitch before writing! Sometimes it’s hard to do that so early in the writing process, but it helps me focus my story.
That’s great advice, Laura! Now what I have to say probably isn’t. (lol!) But if I can swing it, I list the unique things about my book. With “convoluted story of two passengers on an Orphan Train, a broken dirigible, an alchemist, a lumberjack with an affinity for jellyfish, and the spies in bowler hats who chase them” I’ve been told by editors and agents that’s what caught their attention–that zany list.
Like I said, not great advice but it has worked.
I’ve heard so much about the Snowflake Method — thanks for the link. I’ll have to read that later.
I didn’t have a pitch when I first started this project, but for the revision phase(s), having a pitch has helped me A LOT.
I think moving forward and being a plot chick, I’ll try to have a pitch in mind — even if I have to change it during the novel project.
I’ve never written a pitch line before I began writing in the past. I usually come up with it much later. I’ll try it on my next project and see if it helps.
I don’t have a big sample to go on, but I usually (!) have an idea in mind that is nowhere near crisp enough for a one sentence pitch. I only get to that point once I’m well into the story because then I can ferret out what the real issue is, as compared with what I thought it was about when I started.
BTW Paula I nominated you for a “One Lovely Blog” award here.
As a panster, a logline, to me, is something I write at the end, in order to try to sell the book.
But even as a panster, I probably know enough about my story, even in the beginning, to write one. Interesting idea that it could help the process. I’ve never thought of it that way.
Sometimes, when I am stuck, I do a modified snowflake to get myself writing about what I want to write about.
I generally have that idea in my head, but sometimes it changes! Yes, I’m a pantser, but I’m trying to reform…on to check out the next in this series! 🙂