The One-Sentence Summary

I recently was challenged to write a one-sentence summary of my books. I say that I was “challenged”, making it sound like a live person came to me and actually challenged me, but that wasn’t really the case.  I was reading a blog I often frequent by Rachelle Gardner.  She’s a literary agent that offers some of the best literary advice I’ve found on this huge thing we call “the internet.” On this particular day in May, her post offered a contest to see who could come up with the best one-sentence summary, also known as a logline, hook or pitch. She asked that it be around 25 words (but not more than 45) that capture your novel; almost like a snapshot.  So I thought, humm, how hard can that be? Then I started.

The guidelines asked that I include a character, their conflict, what’s at stake, and the action.  I started with my first book, Call Me Emily. It was about 9:00 in the evening. Then it was 11:00. If I were some mad writer with a typewriter, there would have been crumpled paper everywhere and my head smashing the keys so loudly that I would have woken up my husband. But my little laptop is surprisingly quiet, and even pounding the delete key over and over didn’t wake him. Finally, the next day,  I bounced a couple of my ideas off some friends, but came up empty again. I skipped over Call Me Emily and went on to write pitches for Emily Calls It and Meet Emily. And those one-sentence summaries only took me about twenty minutes to write.

So what this exercise taught me, is that you can’t write a one-sentence summary if you are at all conflicted about the story you are trying to pitch. I took a closer look at Call Me Emily, evaluated my story, and made some changes. Once I gave myself permission to really dig into the story and change things up, the summary practically wrote itself. Well not exactly, but you get the picture.

So here are my one-sentence summaries:

Call Me Emily

When Emily leaves her small town for a big city college, she thinks she’s got it all figured out, but when manipulation, vanity and pleasure enter her life (AKA Graham), she must decide if she can stay true to herself.

Emily Calls It

Emily continues on her path, returning to her home town seeking solace and clarity, but encounters more romantic drama making finding herself a challenge.

Meet Emily

When Emily returns to her home town years later for an event, it doesn’t occur to her who might be in attendance, and how Christian might lead her to question all of her past decisions.

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Round One … Round Two Constructive Criticism

The editing process is something I never really thought about when I started writing. Pen to paper and fingers to keyboard is a journey, an escape. You know. Fun and relaxing. The feedback, editing and re-writing; not so much.

When I first discovered that I wanted more than just me to read my work, I sent my initial draft to a friend. (Enter, round one.) If it hadn’t been for her I would have never written two more novels. The positive feedback was so encouraging that I kept writing. But I wondered if she was hard enough on me. The answer is, probably not. In order for the story I feel in the inner most depths of my soul to find it’s way onto paper in a well written and delivered novel takes hard work, time and above all listening.

Round two brought me an accomplished writer; a published author. Her time was limited but she managed to dissect my work even further. When I opened up my manuscript I saw her plethora of comments. A sea of red notes, additions and deletions. For a fleeting moment it was hard to read all that red but without those notes how could my work grow? Exactly, it can’t. So I took in every red line she left me as a gold kernel of wisdom. A gift. I read her words, digested them and really listened to what she was saying with each comment. I think, no scratch that, I know I’ve already learned from all of it; both the encouragement and all the read ink.

So while the writing process has been joyful I embrace the editing process and say “bring it on.” And “give it to me.” It will be a lot of hard work but it’s worth it if I can bring this story to life and share it with all of you.

And to all of you lovely people who have taken time out of your schedules to read my manuscripts, thank you. Without you I would still have two pages of a short story that could have been great.


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