You’ve completed your manuscript. Congratulations! What’s the book about?
Does this question stop you cold? How do you put it into a nice succinct speech? More importantly, how do you put it into the dread “Elevator Speech,” so named because in theory (in your dreams) you want to be ready when a publishing VIP steps onto your elevator and says, “What’s the book about?” Because if you can impress this person, your future may be launched!
So you mumble and stammer, and three minutes later, you’re still talking and the VIP is exiting the elevator, taking your dreams with her.
Another missed opportunity.
You go home and sit down at your desk, resolved to create an elevator speech that will dazzle and entice the next VIP, should you ever again be so lucky as to be in the presence of one. You sit and you think and you think and you sit, but the darned speech just won’t materialize. Has this happened to you? It happened to me, and I swear, it will never happen again, thanks to Chuck Sambuchino.
After I published Dakota Blues, I heard Chuck speak at a conference, and I took notes. As an editor at Writer’s Digest Magazine, Chuck has written books about the publishing world, including the well-known Guide to Literary Agents. At the conference, he called this list “The Five Versions of Your Novel from Short to Long.” He suggests you create them in this order:
- Logline. This is a one-sentence line (also called a one-line) that explains what the story is about and shows the hook – the unique idea that will entice a reader. Think of it this way: if you and your friends are trying to decide what movie to see, how would you describe your choice in one sentence? “It’s about a 70-year-old widower, who hates being retired, so he lands a job as a senior intern at a fashion website.” (The Intern). Or, “An American attorney must negotiate the release of a U-2 spy plane pilot who was shot down over Russia at the height of the Cold War.” (Bridge of Spies)
- Pitch: What you read on the back cover of a book. A paragraph or two.
- Short Synopsis: Two pages or less, double spaced. A front-to-back telling of the story, boiling it down to its essentials.
- Long Synopsis: Seven to eight pages, double spaced.
Of course, you’ll revise as you write, and things will change, but try it out on your next idea for a novel, before you begin to write. I did the first four steps above for a recent book which will never be published, because I realized through this process that the premise was flawed. Then I did it again for my current Work In Progress (WIP) and things are going much better.
It sure was a lot easier than starting with Number Five and working my way backward! Try it, and let me know what you think.