I spent last weekend as a workshop leader at the NY Pitch conference, listening to various editors and agents talk about the importance of the logline. Loglines, also called elevator pitches, are one-or-two sentence descriptions of a novel that are meant to hook the reader. Here’s the logline for my story that was just in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine: Beleaguered middle-aged woman teams up with the ghost of Anne Boleyn to solve a murder. Her own.
Almost every writer I’ve ever met has hated loglines, mainly because they force us to boil our 90,000 carefully written mystery novels into something you could spit out in an elevator. Where’s the nuance? However, they do sell books. So my question for my fellow Miss Demeanors was: Do you have a logline? Would you like to share it here? Or do you hate them and never want to hear about them again?
That’s the perfect logline for your story (everyone rush out and read it now in Alfred Hitchcock Magazine)! I want to see more of Anne and her new friend, let’s hope there are more murders in their future. On to your question . . . I had a logline for my current manuscript, but I think it needs revising. Maybe I’ll do that right now . . .
Well, first of all, Susan, that logline is THE bomb. I would (and will) definitely read that story. Congratulations! I can’t wait! The logline for my latest, The Shadow of Memory, is “American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton uncovers a dark secret buried in Victorian England.” Loglines are so important–and SO difficult to write. One of the reasons it’s so hard, I think, is that writers try to write the logline before they’ve really finished the story. I don’t really know what my story is about until I’ve finished at least the first draft. Some say, I know, that it helps to write the logline first. That keeps you on track as you write. But I’ve never been able to do it. Best of luck with that amazing story!
Loglines are the bane of my existence. But, Susan, yours is perfect. I’m reading that story!
I know we have to write loglines and blurbs and synopses. And the last time I had to do it for a WIP it almost broke me. I’m still recovering. Having said that, I just looked at it and it’s pretty good, I think, but I can’t share it yet.
The one for Behind the Lie is: NYPD detective turned small town PI Laney Bird is in a fight to save lives—including her own—when an explosion of deadly violence at a block party exposes the crimes simmering underneath her neighborhood’s peaceful façade.
I can see the value of loglines and spending some time developing a good one. But I worry that writers, particularly unpublished writers, spend too much valuable time writing loglines and query letters and not enough time writing. Writers become so demoralized about their queries, pitches, and loglines, that they forget the important thing is their writing. Craft, people. No logline will ever sell crappy writing.
So here’s my logline for No Virgin Island: A television meteorologist who has been acquitted of murdering her husband seeks refuge on an island only to stumble upon the body of a dead man.
I know loglines are important. They’re a catchy way to get someone interested in your book. Same for movies, TV shows, and podcasts. With so many to choose from, a good logline can help you narrow your selection. I’ve certainly made decisions based on an appealing logline. I think of them as serving the same purpose as the brief descriptions that appeared in the TV guide back when anyone knew what a TV guide was. That being said, I hate writing them. Writing them forces you to spell out what’s simultaneously critical and appealing in your story. However, I always stress out about highlighting the wrong things and about being witty in one or two sentences.
I legit don’t recall what I used for Murder in G Major. I’m sure it wasn’t as catchy as yours, Susan.
I’ve never written a logline per se but I usually write the jacket copy and the logline is buried in it. The logline for my last book, Legacy in the Blood would be, Investigating what appears to be a straight-forward murder, NYPD Detectives Chiara Corelli and P.J. Parker encounter a not so white supremacist and a threat to our democracy.
I try to write the jacket copy and, therefore, the logline, as early in the process as possible but since I’m a pantser and don’t know what the story is, I can only do it when I’m at least halfway through the manuscript. Writing it helps me focus the story.
I’m with Michele. The whole process is demoralizing. At any rate, here’s a logline for Implied Consent:
Lawyer Maureen Gold has a dark secret, a rocky marriage, and a need to prove herself. When a young woman walks into her office with a Hollywood #metoo case, Maureen spots a chance for redemption.
I don’t usually have a formal longline, like ‘x meets y’ or ‘just like…except,, but I do always have a one or two sentence description. I use that as a placeholder when I put my books up for preorder, since I usually haven’t actually written the book yet.
But it functions like a log line, because it gives me a “true north” to aim for. Here’s the one I’m using for Killer Storm, the fourth Fin Fleming thriller, due out in November.
A major hurricane strikes the Cayman Islands, and a ruthless killer uses the storm to cover a trail of murder and deception.
And if you’re so inclined, you can preorder it here.
Susan Breen is the author of the Maggie Dove mystery series. Her stories have been published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The MWA anthology, Crime Hits Home, in which she has a story, just won an Anthony Award. She teaches novel-writing at Gotham Writers and is on the staff of the New York Write to Pitch Conference. www.susanjbreen.com