Sunday, December 8, 2013

The One Sentence Masterpiece

By Rebecca Pratt

This blog is for our signed authors and those wishing to be signed by the Rebecca Pratt Literary Group.  For that reason I will discuss one of the most difficult of concepts—the logline.

Lets start with a publisher who tells us what they want to see.  "Unless you can distill your submission down to a ‘high concept’ one line logline we are likely not very interested.

“In our experience, if you cannot deliver a one-line pitch, the theme or the concept is not sufficiently differentiated for us. We look for provocative, controversial, different, fun, funky, edgy, different—not all of these. Any of these," Random House.

This has been called a logline, a hook or a one-sentence pitch.  Strictly speaking it is not a tagline.  

So here’s how we at the Rebecca Pratt Literary Group define and explain it:

What: About 25 words that capture your novel, memoir, or non-fiction book.

Why: To get someone interested in reading your book.

When to use it: The start of a query, or anytime someone asks you, “What’s your book about?”  We use it as a lead-in to your web synopsis and in our communications with publishers.

What it does: A one-sentence summary takes your complex book with multiple characters and plotlines and boils it down into a simple statement that can be quickly conveyed and understood, and generates interest in the book.

What it should include:
A character or two
Your choice, conflict, or goal
What’s at stake (may be implied)
Action that will get them to the goal
Setting (only if important)

Keep it simple. One plotline, 1 or 2 characters.
Use the strongest nouns, verbs and adjectives.
Make the conflict clear but you don’t have to hint at the solution.

In your one-sentence summary, do not pitch a theme. Pitch what happens. Examples of themes:

This book explores forgiveness.
This book looks at the thin line between right and wrong.
This book explores the meaning of independence, and asks if it’s really possible.

Here is Nathan Bransford's simplified formula for a one-sentence pitch: "When [opening conflict] happens to [character(s)], they must [overcome conflict] to [complete their quest]."

Lets look at some published books and see what their log line looks like:

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
• A boy wizard begins training and must battle for his life with the Dark Lord who murdered his parents.

Character=boy wizard
Conflict=battling the Dark Lord
Stakes=his life
Action=wizard training; avoiding the same fate as his parents

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
• In the south in the 1960s, three women cross racial boundaries to begin a movement that will forever change their town and the way women view one another.

When Faith Awakes by Mike Duran
• Chaos is unleashed on a quiet coastal town when an unassuming crippled woman raises a young boy from the dead, unlocking a centuries-old curse.

Medical Error by Richard Mabry
• Identity theft becomes fatal for a patient and puts a young doctor's reputation and medical practice in jeopardy.

Chasing Superwoman by Susan DiMickele
• A successful attorney and mother of three battles discrimination, exhaustion, and a clueless boss while balancing a career, a family, and a life of faith.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Slicing Love

By:  Rebecca S. Pratt, Agent

We do love our words.  As writers they are our friends who allow us to do the magic that is called communication.  When we are on a roll our muse hands us words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs—and soon we have a manuscript.

But often the manuscript that we have given birth to is overweight and in jeopardy of never being printed.  Very few writers, no matter their skill or fame, can get a novel of 120,000 words printed.  We know that, but we also know that cutting it down to the 85,000 words that a publisher will consider will require cutting not only fat but also muscle and sinew.

Some of our writers are doing just that, right now.  That is the hard work of writing.

Others have a finished, well proportioned package ready to be read by publishers.  It is at this point that we ask for a web synopsis.
The rules are simple.  One paragraph.  No more than 5 sentences.  Tell us the characters.  Tell us what they do.  Tell us the plot.  Tell us what promotes the plan or interferes with it (twists).  Tell us if the plan is successful or not.  And remember, your audience is not the reader.  Your audience is the person who must decide if it has potential, can be done within a reasonable budget and is marketable.  They do not want to be held in suspense: they want you to be pragmatic and informative toward them.

The web synopsis is a marketing tool aimed at a very limited audience.

When a publisher’s rep goes to our website and finds a synopsis that appears to be marketable and printable, we want them to take the next step by asking the agent for a read.  Seeing the kind of synopsis we keep encouraging our authors to write, the publisher understands that this author has the skill, discipline and drive to do the work that will turn a manuscript into a book that will find and hold its own in today’s reading marketplace.  Those books will be profitable for everyone—the author, the agent, the publisher and the readers who will be entertained, enriched or even enlightened.

What we ask our writers to do is hard.  We know that.  Publishers know that.  But when done right it enhances your chances of being published.

Here is one that works.  Try it:  (Your main character) is a ______________________.  He or she wants to_____________________________.  The plot includes (these events)__________________________ that get in the way of a happy ending.  (These people) are helping or hindering (your main character).  The end is when (your main character) gets _______________________, or not.

All you have to do is fill in the blanks, find the right nouns and the perfect modifiers, round off the rough corners and make it sound like you are telling a story to a very specific audience.  

Voila!  Success.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Welcome to the Rebecca Pratt Literary Group Blog.  Rebecca will be setting things up and posting the first official blog very soon.  Welcome.  Glenn (Senior Editor and Webmaster).