Posted in Publishing, Writing

Why You Need to Learn How to Write Compelling Loglines

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In her 2012 craft book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, author Mary Kole says,

A logline pitch is what most agents and editors compose to get attention for our projects. It’s a distillation of your book into a short, digestible, and, ideally, electrifying idea.


If you want to become a successful writer, it’s vital you learn how to write loglines.

This is most especially the case if you write screenplays or novels, although figuring out a logline for your latest short story can be helpful, too.

A logline can seem annoying to you at first. You might think, I just put six months into this script or novel. I just gave it everything I have, and now I have to find a way to pitch the thing in one to two sentences???

Yep, you do.

In fact the earlier you figure out your dynamic, electrifying pitch the better. The worst thing you can do is spend a year or longer on your latest novel, and then discover there’s no clear way to pitch the thing in a concise way to the people who matter — literary agents and editors.

I’m struggling with this a bit right now actually with my MFA thesis novel. It has two POV characters who only slightly intersect with each other until the very end of the narrative. Trying to figure out how to pitch this particular project has given me many a headache, especially since I’ve been working on it for two and a half years.

There’s a lot that you’re asked of as a writer, I know. Not only do you need to revise your novel or screenplay to the point where it’s ready to be queried, but you also have to often write a 1–2 page synopsis, which is a tedious process but necessary for most agents and editors.

And then, of course, there’s the logline. That brief sentence or two that can make a world of difference in your writing career.


So what exactly is a logline?

Mary Kole features a clear definition in her book:

The logline is a sentence that delivers all the necessary information about a project. The genre, the protagonist, the set-up, the problem or the hindrance to said goal.

You should in two sentences or less be able to quickly tell another person what your book or script is about in a way that makes that person want to read it. And you should be able to in as few words as possible get across your genre, who your main character is, the main set-up and conflict, and what the problem is for that character in reaching his or her goal.

Here are three samples of loglines from Kole’s book…

A kid with legendary bad luck must survive a juvenile detention camp’s secret agenda and unearth the truth about his family curse. (Holes by Louis Sachar)

A boy grieving for his crush receives a box of tapes sent just before her suicide that implicates thirteen people in her death — and he’s one of them. (Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher)

A popular girl has the opportunity to relive her last day over and over against to see if she can change her ways and alter her destiny. (Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver)

Notice had none of these three examples necessarily gives away the genre of the book, so if the genre sort of comes through in your pitch of the story, you likely don’t need to explicitly state it.

Just get to the story, the main character, the dilemma. Do what you need to do to ensure that your latest writing project is attractive to your potential readers!


No matter what part of the writing process you’re in, try to boil your project down to a logline.

You don’t have to be finished. You don’t even have to have started the novel or screenplay yet! I’ve heard famous authors say you should come up with the logline before you write a single word. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but some people stand by it.

Yes, at a certain point you’re going to need to come up with a way to pitch your project in a couple of sentences. Sure, in a query letter for a novel or screenplay you can write a little bit more than two sentences. You can usually get away with six to eight sentences or so when you’re discussing the story.

But figuring out your logline sooner than later will absolutely help you in the long run. It will help you understand what makes your project stand out, what makes it unique. Discovering the perfect logline early on will get you even more excited to keep working on your project and ultimately complete it!

And it will also help you find that all-important audience when that logline attracts the readers you want. Like beta readers, sure, but also agents and editors. The people who have the power to make a major difference.

So go for it! Come up with incredible loglines time and time again, and there’s no telling how much success you’ll have throughout your writing career.

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