What’s The Concept?
Concept, premise, controlling idea, seed of the story … Whatever you want to call it, you need that THING at foundation level in your story to be clear and compelling, otherwise your story is SUNK.
Put simply, if you don’t have a great concept at the foundation of your screenplay or novel? YOU GOT NUTHIN’! Supersadface.
It can’t be true … can it??
How Concepts Kill Spec Scripts & Unpublished Novels
YES! It is true. The short version: if your concept STINKS? Your pitch won’t work. You will never get off the starter blocks – no one will like your logline or short pitch, so won’t even read your work. Ack.
But even if by some miracle someone DOES agree to read your stinky concept screenplay or novel? Guess what happens – the draft won’t work, either. Yes, even if your writing is otherwise well-crafted. Yikes!
By the way, even if your concept is GREAT, if the execution of your craft is not? You STILL won’t advance, because agents, producers and publishers are afraid you can’t follow through. Noooooo!
In other words, we want BOTH:
Great concept & great writing = SALE.
What Is A Logline?
A logline is a short, pithy description, usually between 25 and 60 words, of your story. A logline basically encapsulates your story – your concept (they’re sometimes called ‘short pitches’ too, especially in novels).
Loglines should not be confused with taglines, which are the little PR/marketing lines on movie posters. Loglines/short pitches are what the screenwriter or novelist must interest an agent, producer or publisher with to get their work SOLD.
From there, said agents, producers and/or publishers must ensure they put the concept across to readers and audiences in a compelling enough way to ensure people buy watch or read those stories.
Why Loglines Matter
Here’s the thing: experienced script editors and readers CAN TELL if you have concept problems at foundation level FROM YOUR LOGLINE. True story!
Buuuuuuuut this is what you should do:
- Writers should START projects with a logline. This means you can iron out any difficulties from the foundations of your story UP. It also means you don’t start writing one thing … and end up writing another, or overcrowd the story with too many threads or conflicting ideas. This is why B2W always recommends you road test your concepts.
- If writers have difficulty with a concept at foundation level, this WILL translate to the writing. There are many classic problems and pitfalls with loglines. This is because many writers describe ‘around’ the story and don’t really interrogate the concept and how it works. Other writers may gloss over the logline, or don’t even bother with one until MUCH later. These are always the projects that run into terrible difficulties in the drafting process. The writers who really work on their logline and ensure their concept is working and firing on all cylinders spend less time in what I call The Story Swamp, because planning WORKS.
- It’s a great idea to REVISIT your logline in the writing of your project. Even when we’ve worked on our concepts, we may have a flash of inspiration that means we end up going a different way in the actual writing. This is obviously fine, but it does pay to go back to our original logline so we can see WHERE we’ve parted ways. This means we can assess if it works and not waste our time (which no one ever has enough of!).
- If you start with a logline, you have a ‘baseline’. This can be comforting to many writers, but more importantly, when someone says ‘What are you working on?’ (and they will!), you can answer!
- You will never be in that hideous No Man’s Land with a draft and no concept. Again, this saves time. I’ve known writers to have to ‘carve out’ a story from draft after draft for YEARS … whereas writers who start with a road-tested logline can finish in a matter of months or even weeks. What’s not to like!