Essential advice since 2010 for fiction writers, aspiring novelists, and editors from Jodie Renner, highly respected fiction editor and author of three award-winning craft-of-writing guides, FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as time-saving QUICK CLICKS e-resources.
You run into a friend and mention you’re writing a novel. “What’s it about?” they ask.
You stammer, “Well, it’s about this guy… Actually, and his sidekick too. She’s a woman. They don’t really get along all that well… at least, not at the beginning. He’s former FBI agent and she used to be a cop. Did I tell you they’re private detectives? Anyway, they get this weird case… Hey, where are you going? I was just getting to the good part!”
This is the kind of situation where you wish you had created a succinct, compelling storyline or “elevator pitch,” well-prepared and memorized.
Here are some tips on writing an engaging storyline, tagline, elevator pitch, and back cover copy for your novel. These are all essentials for hooking potential readers and enticing them to read your novel. If you’re still writing your novel, doing these exercises will help you focus on the core of your story and how best to engage readers.
Your storyline (or logline) gives the gist of your book in a few sentences. It tells something about the main character, the conflict or dilemma, and the stakes.
When someone casually asks you what your book is about, you’ll probably give them your storyline/logline. It’s a condensed version of the elevator pitch.
Even if you haven’t yet finished your novel, writing a storyline for it will help you zero in on what your story is really about, at its essence, and what emotion(s) you want to evoke in your readers.
Start with a 5-6-sentence version (up to a paragraph or two) and work down to one or two sentences. Keep your longer version as your “elevator pitch” for when the situation allows enough time to use it.
To create your storyline, first answer these questions: