Log Lines and What Editors & Agents Look for: Lessons from #muse2015

logo@2xHere’s a glimpse at my faves from The Muse and the Marketplace 2015, a high-energy weekend at the Park Plaza Hotel devoted to writing and publishing.

Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence with Lane Shefter Bishop: Craft a great log line to pitch your book. The log line must answer these three questions:
1. Who is the protagonist? (Who is the story about?)
2. What does the protagonist want?
3. What are the stakes? (What will happen if the protagonist does not get what she/he is after?)
And these three questions should be answered in a way that
– highlights the most unique aspect of your work (what sets it apart from everything else out there?),
– uses active, dynamic language
– and leaves out unnecessary detail (often that means character names, character ages, etc.).
What was really great about this session: we worked through some rough log lines and turned those clunky mouthfuls into single streamlined, compelling sentences. The process for writing a log line: write out a summary of the most important parts of your story, then pare it down to the absolute essentials that allow the audience to get the gist of your story and how it’s unique. And that’s a useful endeavor even if you aren’t pitching your book, screenplay, etc.; writing a log line can help create and then maintain a sense of clarity and focus as you move forward with your work.

All this and more is covered in Lane Shefter Bishop’s upcoming book on writing log lines.

The Editorial Eye with Cara Blue Adams: What makes writing compelling to journal editors and more generally readers? 3 things:
– Vividness: the story gives us the feeling that we are entering a world, being pulled into a dream.
– Urgency + Momentum: the story evokes our curiosity, raises questions in our mind that keep us in that world/dream.
– Depth: the story is connected to a larger mystery (a question regarding human nature or philosophical quandary, perhaps—like in Ex Machina: what does it mean for a being to be intelligent?/how do intelligent beings relate to each other?) and conveys a sense that a thoughtful person is confiding in you some acute observation or even insight regarding that mystery.
It’s best to have all three elements present in the first page to pull your readers in (especially if your readers are magazine editors or agents), and we worked on an exercise during the session pushed us to (further) include all three in the first page of projects we’re currently working on.

Speaking of the first page, a Literary Idol session with agents imparted upon me these points regarding what a first page should do:
– be focused
– keep the energy high
– balance internal and external worlds
– avoid clichés and stock descriptions
– propel the story forward
– put the author’s best storytelling foot forward

And the most inspiring takeaway of the weekend: I love how GrubStreet treats their conference volunteers like VIPs. It was truly a pleasure to work on conference operations with staff and volunteers who manifest such a supportive and convivial ethos.

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