Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When Do You Write Your Log line?

If you've been writing a while then you know what a log line is. But if you're just entering the self-inflicted neurosis that is writing...I mean, wonderful life in which you find joy in writing things that aren't real, then I will explain what a log line is.

In the world of screen writing a log line is a one sentence pitch that describes your movie. In the world of novels it seems you can get by with an extra sentence or two, but the shorter the better.

When I first started writing back in 2004 I didn't know what a log line was and if I had to describe my novel to a stranger on an elevator there would be a lot of "umms," followed by a couple "and then," interjected with an "oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about the," closing five minutes later with with "Well, it's pretty complex. You'll just have to read it to get what it's about."

The first novel I ever wrote I didn't even write a log line for it, primarily because I didn't know what one was. Novel two didn't have one because I didn't think it was worthy enough for any type of summarization. Novel three didn't have a log line because the notion of trying to describe my entire novel in less that sixty words was just too daunting. Around Novel four I started spending some time at Miss Snark's First Victim and reading Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT (which if you haven't read I highly suggest). I wrote a log line for novel four to enter it in a contest. Novel Five (which was just a massive over haul of Novel Four) had a succinctly designed one sentence pitch, three sentence pitch, and one paragraph pitch (as advised per the awesome former-agent-now-author Nathan Bransford). Having these three different type of pitches really helped out when trying to write my query letter.

But, here's the thing, when I wrote the log line for Novel Four and Novel Five I did it after the novels were completed.

But this time around I'm doing things quite differently. I'm actually working on two novels at the same time, an MG fantasy and a YA contemporary. At first I thought I'd feel like I was cheating on one novel with the other, but it hasn't felt like that--primarily because I told myself if Shannon Messenger can do it then I can too!

I've been struggling with both novels (maybe because I'm working on two...eek!) so I thought I'd re-read Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT. And Mr. Snyder said something that made me completely stop in my tracks. He says that you should write the log line before you do anything else. Write the log line before you even start plotting and definitely write the log line before you even start writing.

I think I'm going to give it a try, but just wanted to see how many others out there actually write the log line before they do anything else.


  1. It's one of the first things I do after I get the idea. If I can't figure the log line before I write then I know I'm doomed to writing down a lot of dead ends and theme that is all over the place. That is pantser at its fullest. It saves time in the long run.

  2. I'm going to try this for my next novel. I'm also going to force myself to outline before I write...I think it will help some of the problems I continually run into with my plotting.

  3. I like the idea of writing the logline first, but in practice, I have yet to accomplish this.