The Logline: Short and Agonizing

Monday, February 01, 2021

I thought I hated writing query letters and synopsis until I discovered loglines. Simply put, a logline is a brief description, up to two sentences long, which sums up your book in a way that will hook your reader. If you’re a film writer, it summarizes your screen play and entices producers. 

I had to write a logline for a conference I’m attending online. They provided a helpful article which explained that a strong logline includes all of the basics – who, when, what and why. And it can be up to 75 words long. 

Fortunately, I had all I needed.

Who: Ava, the scientist, her older brother Jaxon, an athlete, and youngest brother, lovable Teddy.
When: Approx. 200 years in the future.
What: They are fighting to get home.
Why: Because they woke up in the family space craft, their parents not on board. 

Of course, if you go into it thinking that all of this is essential you are in danger of making the same mistake I made. I tried to pack as much as possible into my logline. "

In the not too distant future, when a young girl with a mind for science awakens on the family starship, she discovers her brothers onboard but her parents are missing. During the long fight home, she has to redefine how she thinks of family and what is home.” 

Wow. That’s a chunk. 

I mentioned my unwieldy logline to a mystery writers group that I meet with. One of the writers explained to me that most people write loglines that are too long. “Make it shorter,” she said. “Short enough for someone to remember and repeat. Then it sticks in their head.” She explained that out of all ten of her books, the ones that did best in terms of sales could be summarized with a Blake Snyder logline.

So I picked up Snyder’s Save the Cat which I have on hand because I just started taking the class, Cracking the Beat Sheet. Quickly I read up on loglines. Snyder doesn’t focus on broad strokes - Who, When, What and Why. His requirements are much tighter - Who, What and a Sense of Irony. Why irony? It is an attention grabber. People will start asking questions and wanting answers. 

Who, what and irony. Keep it short.
Who: Three kids in space.
What: Trying to get home.
Irony? That was a little tougher. But then I realized – they had been sent into space by Mom and Dad! 

“After being cast into space by their parents, three kids fight their way home.” 

Snyder’s formula may not be the right one for every project but so far so good. Need a logline? Pick up Save the Cat. Snyder knows what he's doing?  Me?  It took me three days to pull something together that wasn't completely horrific. I'd much rather write a synopsis.  Really.


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 27 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins March 1, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins  March 1, 2021). 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--I agree. Elevator pitches or loglines are so so so difficult. I think because we're writers, we love our words, we hone our craft so we have the stamina to write a novel, so distilling all that work down to a single sentence is so hard. The twists we created have to be left out. All the obstacles we set up for our characters cannot be included. The clever plot events we've imagined have to be set aside.

In this case, size DOES matter.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Definitely! I took a pitch writing workshop. Everyone got close but no one got their own right on the first try. But everyone managed to fix someone else's pitch. It was fun to watch.

Renee Roberson said...

Ugh! I have such a problem with loglines. This breaks it down in a very simple way. I would make it two paragraphs if allowed! I have a question, though--would it be a similar process to create a logline for a memoir?

Sue Bradford Edwards said...


I think it is very similar. The potential reader will want to know who it is about, what they are trying to do, and the twist.

I actually find loglines MUCH easier to do for nonfiction. Much, much, much easier. I really can't emphasize that enough.

Of course, I've been working on fiction today so I feel like hiding under the bed.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

This is great information to know Sue, especially for me when I'm ready to pitch my novel. I too tend to be longwinded and like Sioux said, love my words.

Theresa Boedeker said...

Love your logline. Thus was so informative. Going to pick up his book.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

His ideas helped me focus my logline in addition to cutting excess words.

I like Save the Cat Writes a Novel as well. Definitely read both. And thank you!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Ah, the logline. SUCH A HELPFUL TOOL! Save the Cat changed my writing. Or I should say, improved my plotting (thus changing the way I write) since the logline keeps me on track. But yeah, I agree, Sue, it's very challenging to get it down. I'd rather write a synopsis any day!

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