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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A Tale of the Beta Party

It’s been interesting for me to talk to people about what they want and expect from me and this blog. It felt narcissistic to first launch this site and second to release a new post each week. I wondered who would read it, and what those two people would think when they finished reading. (Ha!) So I decided to get over myself.

It turns out there might be more than two people reading my posts. And to you three, thanks for visiting. But in all seriousness I’ve learned that in addition to posts about my writing journey, my readers want more excerpts from my books and what those excerpts mean to me. The second part of that request actually took me by surprise. But surprised as I am, I’ve included an excerpt and what it means to me.

So here’s a passage from Call Me Emily Chapter 7, A Tale of the Beta Party. In this scene Emily and her friend Allison are invited to their first Frat party. And nothing spoils it like her brother showing up. Or so she thought.

What it means to me?

I think about young women and  how important it is to temper what your heart feels with common sense. When the goosebumps rise on your arms and the tiny little hairs on the back on your neck stand on end, listen. If you think something is wrong, it probably is.  (And I’m not just talking about this one instance.)

This particular part of the book is a jumping off point of sorts for Emily. She’s starting to see that college is different than she thought it would be. She has the opportunity to choose from a few different paths, but as we all know our feet will only carry us down one.  Let’s hope she chooses wisely.


Chapter 7

A Tale of the Beta Party

“So Emily,” Kevin made his way over. “Can I get you another beer?”

“Thanks, but I’m good.” I smiled a forced smile. He was cute but clearly not my type. He had bleached blond hair in the front and darker in the back and his shirt was too tight which didn’t do it for me.  I wondered if he was interested or just trying to keep me busy so Dave could get some alone time with Allison. I noticed Dave handing Allison his full cup of beer and taking her almost empty one. While I’m not typically the Mother Hen type, I thought it best that I keep an eye on her.

The group grew to more than twenty people in no time. Heather and Melinda seemed to be the catalyst for socializing. During my conversation with Kevin about, what else, Beta house, I heard my name. It wasn’t Allison calling me; maybe it wasn’t me they were calling. Then I heard it louder.

“Hey Emily!” It was Joel, my brother’s friend. My brother followed a few feet behind him with the girl with the short shorts on his arm.

“Hi Joel, how are you?” I asked, shooting my brother a look that only he would understand; what a slut! “Ethan,” I said, as seriously as I could.

He mimicked my tone, “Em.”

“We were just wondering if you needed a ride home,” Joel offered.

We? I seriously doubted that. My brother looked like he had his hands full. “Thanks but I drove and I have Allison with me.” I looked around for her, but where was she? Panic filled me. “Allison?” I called her name, but no response.

“I have to go find Allison.” I waved to both Ethan and Joel, ignoring the short shorts girl and started to move through the crowd.

“You don’t have to worry about her; she’s with Dave.” Kevin took hold of my arm. I saw my brother’s attention shift to me and I gave him the ‘I have it handled’ look.

“Thanks,” I said, just a little bit on the snide side, “but I need to find my friend.”

“Really Emily, she’s fine,” he didn’t let go of my arm. I looked back at his hand clasped on my arm and saw another hand in the way. That would be Ethan.

“Come on Em, I’ll help you find Allison.” Ethan didn’t look at me while he said this but at Kevin. Kevin dropped his hand from my arm.

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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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