Pitching on Twitter . . . 140 character loglines!

I apologize in advance for the length of this post. But . . .

Loglines are important in every step of the publishing process. Writers use them to get agents. Agents use them to snag editors’ interest. Editors use them to sell the book to their marketing/acquisitions teams. Publishers use them in publicity to the reader.

A good logline is essential to garnering attention for your novel. Pitching is the delivery of your logline to someone else. It takes practice, good form, and fortitude just like . . .

pitching

Answer all of the following questions, then narrow things down to your 140-character pitch. As you’re going through, don’t worry so much about length as ideas. You can cut and reword later.

 

Components of a logline . . .

Main Character

What do they want, their goal or intention?

This can be internal or external, or both if you’re extremely clever.

If you use a name, you’ve wasted a description. What is the primary description of your character? Make sure it pertains to the main plot/theme of the story. And with pitching on Twitter, using ages is also a waste (in my opinion) because you’re tagging with an age category already.

Girl wanting to be seen as herself . . .

A queen desiring world peace . . .

A scientist hoping to cure all disease . . .

(P.S. The first is one of my book, but the others I’m making up as I go.)

Description

More adjectives add to setting, character, genre, and plot.

Be as specific as possible without using words that apply to only your story (like horcrux), because people won’t understand.

Daughter of a wealthy scientist wanting to be seen as herself . . .

A crippled princess desiring world peace . . .

A dying scientist hoping to cure all disease . . .

hmm

Main Conflict (Antagonist/Antagonistic Situation)

And how are they in the way of the protagonist getting what they want?

Daughter of a wealthy scientist wanting to be seen as herself, dies, and her spirit is engineered by a techno-cult to use a living host . . .

A crippled princess desiring world peace must face the prince of an invading country in one-on-one combat . . .

A dying scientist hoping to cure all disease is sabotaged by a pharmaceutical company . . .

Plot Synopsis

What makes the story unique?

Especially for science fiction or fantasy, set up the world and what makes it different.

Daughter of a wealthy scientist wanting to be seen as herself, dies, and her spirit is engineered by a techno-cult to use a living host. When she meets her polar opposite, the key to immortality is revealed.

A crippled princess of the underground colony of Sector 3, desiring world peace, must face the prince of an invading country in one-on-one combat . . .

A dying scientist working at a children’s hospital, hoping to cure all disease, is sabotaged by the pharmaceutical company who provides his meds . . .

good

Emotional hook

The emotional hook might already be included by this point. If not, make mention of it somehow.

Daughter of a wealthy scientist, wanting to be seen as herself, accidentally dies trying to get her father’s attention. Her spirit is engineered by a techno-cult to use a living host. When she meets her polar opposite, the key to immortality is revealed.

A crippled princess of the underground colony of Sector 3, desiring world peace, must face her childhood love, the prince of an invading country in one-on-one combat . . .

A dying scientist working at a children’s hospital, hoping to cure all disease, is sabotaged by the pharmaceutical company who provides his meds . . .

In the last one, I think the children’s hospital is the emotional hook. We know he’s a good guy trying to save children.

Stakes

If they don’t overcome conflict and get what they need, what is going to happen to them, their community, and/or the world?

Daughter of a wealthy scientist, wanting to be seen as herself, accidentally dies trying to get her father’s attention. Her spirit is engineered by a techno-cult to use a living host. When she meets her polar opposite, the key to immortality is revealed, and if they’re captured, the cult will use them to create an army of shifters capable of taking over anyone they choose.

A crippled princess of the underground colony of Sector 3, desiring world peace, must face her childhood love, the prince of an invading country, in one-on-one combat to the death. If she doesn’t win, her subjects will have their legs torn off and be left to rot in the sun.

A dying scientist working at a children’s hospital, hoping to cure all disease, is sabotaged by the pharmaceutical company who provides his meds. Unless he stops them and finishes his work within the week, his funding will run out and the living producers of his cures will die, only weeks before himself.

Try Adding Comps

Think of a character or story that fits one of the phrases you have in your pitch. As many similarities as possible. The main idea is to have the compared work explain the primary idea. If you’re an editor, the comp needs to show a good sales record and potential market. So if you can give this to the agent, they’ll be very happy.

Book comps are always better than movie comps. Published within the last two to three years is best.

Daughter of a wealthy scientist, wanting to be seen as herself, accidentally dies trying to get her father’s attention. Her spirit is engineered by a modern Dr. Frankenstein to use a living host. When she meets her X-men-like polar opposite, the key to immortality is revealed, and if they’re captured, the cult will use them to create an army of shifters capable of taking over anyone they choose.

A crippled princess of the underground colony of Sector 3, desiring world peace, must face her childhood love, the prince of an invading country, in one-on-one combat to the death. If she doesn’t win, her subjects will have their legs torn off and be left to rot in the sun. A BUG’S LIFE meets MAD MAX

A dying scientist working at a children’s hospital, hoping to cure all disease, is sabotaged by the pharmaceutical company who provides his meds. Unless he stops them and finishes his work within the week, his funding will run out and the living producers of his cures will die, only weeks before himself.

For the last one, I got nothing. You can add some in the comments if you like. For any of these actually.

nothing

Other Things to Keep in Mind

The more irony in the logline (and your story), the better.

Use action words.

Add descriptive imagery if there’s room.

Don’t use cliches.

Reflect the genre in the words and voice.

Add a countdown to ticking time-bomb if you can.

MOVE AND REARRANGE AND CUT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

If this is a twitter pitch, you’re going to have to choose your most important components. Not everything will fit in 140 characters. 😦

SAMPLE 1

Daughter of a wealthy scientist, wanting to be seen as herself, accidentally dies trying to get her father’s attention. Her spirit is engineered by a modern Dr. Frankenstein to use a living host. When she meets her X-men-like polar opposite, the key to immortality is revealed, and if they’re captured, the cult will use them to create an army of shifters capable of taking over anyone they choose.

For a query . . .

Accidentally dying to get noticed, a girl is engineered by a modern Dr. Frankenstein to use a living host. She must find her X-men-like opposite and reveal the key to immortality, or a techno-cult will use them to take over the world and she’ll lose herself forever.

For a pitch contest . . .

Accidentally dying to get noticed, an invisible girl uses a living host. She must find her opposite or lose herself forever. #PitMad #YA #SF

SAMPLE 2

A crippled princess of the underground colony of Sector 3, desiring world peace, must face her childhood love, the prince of an invading country, in one-on-one combat to the death. If she doesn’t win, her subjects will have their legs torn off and be left to rot in the sun. A BUG’S LIFE meets MAD MAX

For a query . . .

A crippled princess of Sector 3 colony must face her childhood love, the prince of an invading country, in one-on-one combat to the death. If she doesn’t win and gain the world peace she’s always wanted, her subjects will have their legs torn off and be left to rot in the sun. A BUG’S LIFE meets MAD MAX

For a pitch contest . . .

Crippled ant-princess must face invading, childhood-love in combat to the death or her colony will perish. BUG’S LIFE x MAD MAX #PitMad #A

SAMPLE 3

A dying scientist working at a children’s hospital, hoping to cure all disease, is sabotaged by the pharmaceutical company who provides his meds. Unless he stops them and finishes his work within the week, his funding will run out unless he finds some money. Otherwise, the living producers of his cures will die, only weeks before himself.

For a query . . .

A dying scientist hopes to cure disease and save his patients at the children’s hospital. When he’s sabotaged by a pharmaceutical company and his funding runs out, the living producers of his cures will die alongside his patients and himself.

For a pitch contest . . .

Dying, children’s-hospital scientist is sabotaged by a pharma co. Cures will die with his patients unless he steals quick cash. #PitMad #A

Notice that I had to add what the scientist did, his actions that propelled the story. Otherwise, he’d just seem sad. The hero was missing in action!

formula

Using A Formula

If you use a common form, it will work. But allowing yourself to cut and trim and work with your words, more of your voice will come out in the pitch. The most common form is:

When [INCITING INCIDENT OCCURS], a [SPECIFIC PROTAGONIST] must [OBJECTIVE], or else [STAKES].

For science fiction, fantasy, or unique world-building, sometimes it’s better to use that unique quality to propel the pitch forward.

In a world where people are grown in test tubes . . .

For more ideas about how to make a pitch, see Pitch Wars: The 35-word and Twitter Pitch … simplified

 

 

GOOD LUCK PITCHING EVERYONE!

 

 

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The Four Act Structure–Witches Brew or Scientific Formula?

 

formula1As a scientist, I became used to the idea of formulas. It was better if things didn’t die or blow up. I learned that you had to be precise, adding just the right amount of this chemical and that liquid to get the desired product. Maybe it was fake banana flavoring or the right mixture of agar to feed the sprouting plants in my Petri dishes. Once you knew the exactly correct formula to make things work a certain way, then you could “experiment” with the formula to see if you could make things better. And sometimes things died or burned me or fizzled out.

Writing books is the same. Formulas have their place. And it isn’t until we understand the formulas that work that we can tweak them, change and bend and twist them. Sometimes they snap. Sometimes they look better twisted. When writing, I probably look more like a witch at her cauldron rather than a scientist in a crisp white coat, but the end result feels remarkably similar sometimes.

f4

So this is the formula I use. It has evolved over the years from three acts to four, I’ve added in things gleaned from books or talks or blogs. I don’t know where it all came from at this point, and if I’ve taken it from you, please let me know so I can give you credit.

 

FOUR ACT STRUCTURE

ACT 1
Introduce main character (hero/heroine), their main flaw, the enabling circumstances, the opponent. The hero must be an ordinary person in this world who shows hero potential.
The life-changing or inciting incident near the beginning. (by 10%)
The lock in, or something terrible that ups the stakes just before Act 2.

LIFE CHANGING EVENT => CHOICE (around 25%)

ACT 2
The MC reacts to the life-changing event and seeks out an ally or is brought out by the ally. Ally must be established with a basic modus operandi that will qualify them to be the most well-suited person to help MC out of their predicament.
They make a plan, usu the MC’s not so great plan that sounds great but will ultimately fail because they think that they can remain the same and overcome their problem as they are. (We all want to be good enough now—but we aren’t.)
The MC struggles to hold onto flaw or not recognize it while still trying to react to the inciting, life-changing event. The MC and ally must have a confrontation.

HERO-ALLY CONFRONTATION AND FACE UP TO FLAW (around 50%)

MIDPOINT—MC recognizes main flaw. This is sometimes referred to as the the Moral Premise, where the protag stops working from a false moral premise and starts working from a true moral premise. Stan Williams has a book about this called The Moral Premise.

ACT 3
After recovering from the previous debacle, MC now fully allies with ally and prepares for the final battle/confrontation with opponent/antagonist. Of course, the opponents are rallying as well, so the stakes are increased because there are more bad guys doing more bad stuff.
By the end, it appears that failure is inevitable.

RESOLUTION OF FLAW THAT ALLOWS HERO TO CONFRONT ANTAGONIST UNENCUMBERED BY FLAW (around 75%)

ACT 4
Hero, now completely unencumbered by flaw, literally or metaphorically battles the opponent to overcome and triumph. Return to new equilibrium with better hero. (around 90%)

And because I’m a hopeless romantic, hopefully they get their HEA as well. (100%)

THE END (of the book but never the story)

 

f3

 

There are always many ways to change this, make it unique, own it.

There are an infinite number of ideas out there waiting to become books.

I’d love to hear what kind of plotting devices you use!

One of My Crit Partners is Soft (ware) . . .

But man is it hard on me!

One of my living, breathing CPs introduced me to the marvel of software designed to improve your writing. There are some caveats, I’ll admit.

~ It will never replace the creative, human editor inside you that feels what’s right to write.

~ They never catch everything.

~ Occasionally, they catch the wrong thing.
frtiz-the-dog-2

Automation issues aside, they’re still incredible tools to get the best self-edit out there. Then the human CPs can catch even more mistakes without wading through the obvious ones. (I know, I know, I have seventeen “blue”s in the first three pages.)

There are several programs out there, and each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, but overall, they have tightened my writing tremendously. One of the great things about them–most are free for small samples. If you write novels like I do, you’ll quickly become frustrated with the limitations of the free versions, but the main benefit is that you can try it and see if it’s something you’re interested in.

My two favorites are AutoCrit and ProWritingAid.

Hope this helps!

 

autocrit

How it works . . .

You can upload a file or cut and paste into the window, then click analyze on the report of your choice. You can run a variety of reports on the uploaded text: pacing an momentum, dialogue, strong writing, word choice, repetition.  My favorite sub-categories are overused words, cliches, passive voice, and repetition. There are so many. It’s designed by a writer for writers.

Once the analysis is done, you can go into the text and modify it, then immediately re-run the report to see the improvements.

autocrit page

What I like . . .

I love the immediate satisfaction of improvement. This can be taken too far, though. Another benefit (for those of us who tend to be obsessive–yes my had is raised) is that it gives you an average amount of “acceptable” infractions. No manuscript will be free of some passive voice, an extra “very” or “just”, but this gives a percentage per word count and even gives you a “Good job!” so you can pat yourself on the back.

I also feel like it analyzed a bit better than ProWritingAid. I haven’t been using it nearly as long though, so I’m not sure.

What I don’t like . . .

You can only use it in an online dashboard. No wifi=no AutoCrit. I like to go on retreats, so this becomes difficult for me when I’m out in the middle of the woods, writing at the beach, or at a monastery at the SCBWI Advanced Writer’s Retreat.

I also don’t like the hassle of cutting and pasting back into my manuscript. But that’s really just me whining a bit.

Cost . . .

Levels of memberships range from $5-$12/month to analyze various lengths of material at a time. The Gold, or lowest membership, allows 1,000 words at a time. The Premium, or highest membership, allows unlimited words as many times as you want.

Go To AutoCrit Now

 

prowritingaid

How it works . . .

ProWritingAid is an add-on to your word program, so it works inside the file you already have. You select the text inside your file, go to the toolbar always available, and run the report. You can run all the reports together, and this feature is superior to AutoCrit. Seeing all the issues with a sentence saves you from having to fix the same sentence twice for two different mistakes.

As with AutoCrit, you can immediately re-run the report, but it takes longer if you run them all at once. (Whining again. We’re talking about fifteen to twenty seconds.)

ProWritingAid_ProductReview_-_Google_Docs1-590x305

What I like . . .

Your text is always there, ready to be analyzed as soon as you finish a chapter. No need to upload or cut and paste, and the text is always right where you left it. To stop the editor, all you have to do is click a button and it erases all the highlights and marks in the text, leaving what you’ve changed. Viola!

It has different colored highlights for the different reports, which is nice.

What I don’t like . . .

It doesn’t catch everything. I had “you’re” and “your” slip once. A couple other things. The format isn’t as pretty, but whatever.

Cost . . .

The free version allows 19 writing reports, no interactive editing, online use only, maximum 3,000 words.

Premium is $40/year and allows interactive editing, use with MS Word or Google Docs, has no word limit, and includes more reports.

Premium + is $45/year and includes all of Premium as well as 50 plagiarism checks per year.

Go To ProWritingAid Now