Writing Loglines and Pitches
Loglines can be pesky little things. For the uninitiated, loglines are those 1-2 sentence descriptions of your story (aka ‘short pitch’ if you’re a novelist).
When I work with my Bang2writers, one thing I’ve noted is most really struggle with them. Yet being able to pitch our stories in just a sentence or two actively helps us SELL them to literary agents, publishers, producers, filmmakers, audiences or readers in …
- Cover letters
- Query Emails
- Pitchfests (both online & in real life)
- Meetings and networking events (‘What are you working on?’)
- Writing contests, schemes and initiatives
- Funding bids with investors
- Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and Unbound campaigns
- Online listings – Amazon, Netflix, Prime etc
In other words, as most of us know already … A great logline can make ALL THE DIFFERENCE in getting our writing in front of the right people!
Yet over the years, I noticed writers really struggle at PITCH LEVEL. This struggling has had a real knock-on effect on whether writers got read requests, meetings, even writing contacts and jobs.
In other words, it didn’t matter HOW great their novels or screenplays were, because they were sunk by their loglines. They never got off the starter blocks with agents, publishers, producers or filmmakers! Supersadface.
How NOT To Write A Pitch
There are multiple ways NOT to write a logline, including mistakenly thinking they’re taglines. But I’m going to assume you know that already, so I’m going to jump ahead to the biggest pitch killer of all … VAGUENESS.
It’s really tough to explain ‘vagueness’ because as a concept, is in itself … VAGUE!! How can I demonstrate there’s not enough information ABOUT a story to to explain the story?? YARGH.
So step forward Brave Banger Alexia, who kindly allowed me to focus on her logline in my recent B2W case study Why A Vague Logline Kills Your Pitch Dead.
In the article, I put hers under the microscope. Here it is …
After he unexpectedly befriended his favourite actor, a nine-year-old kid must protect the Hollywood star’s secret, even if that means losing both his mother and his innocence.
As mentioned in the case study, this is NOT a ‘terrible’ logline. However, it does do something I see A LOT in loglines, which is what B2W calls describing ‘around’ the story. For more details and my conclusions on Alexia’s actual logline, CLICK HERE.
However, there’s a single pesky word that frequently POPS UP when writers describe ‘around’ the story and it’s in Alexia’s, too. I’ll tell you what it is, after the jump.
That 1 Pesky Word??
That’s right … the secret to **not** ‘describing around the story’ is ban yourself from using the word ‘secret’!!!
Like so many writers, Alexia thought it was more intriguing to ‘hold back’ the TRUE hook of the story by using the word ‘secret’. I can’t tell you how many loglines I see that use this pitch-killing word.
But why is it such a problem? Here goes …
1) ‘Secret’ could mean literally anything
I have seen multiple loglines with this vague word. As a result, it’s not clear what the actual plot could be. It’s one of those ‘one size fits all’ kind of words, which is the very last thing you want in a pitch! The whole point of a logline is you want your story to seem COMPELLING. What’s compelling about being samey? Answer: nothing.
TOP TIP: ‘Secret’ is samey – you want your logline to be compelling!
2) ‘Secret’ hides the storyworld, genre and tone of the story
Because the word ‘secret’ is so vague, I’ve seen it applied to rom coms, horrors, crime fiction, dramas … you name it! As a result I’ve no idea about the type or style of story I am dealing with. A great logline gives us an idea of WHAT the story is, but also WHO it is for and WHY. You can’t do that by describing ‘around’ the story.
TOP TIP: ‘Secret’ doesn’t give us a sense of audience.
3) ‘Secret’ is just dull!
There’s no substitute for the real HOOK of the story. The hook is what makes a logline truly compelling and grabs industry pros, making them WANT to read your novel or script. (By the way, I cover this in detail in the new B2W online mini course, Logline Hacks). Put simply, that pesky word ‘secret’ sucks out all the FLAVOUR and makes your logline too ‘vanilla’.
TOP TIP: ‘Secret’ is too vanilla.
Stay away from ‘one size fits all’, samey, vanilla words like ‘SECRET’ in your logline. These only make you describe ‘around’ the story … Instead, get to the heart of the matter — the NITTY GRITTY!! Hook us by telling us exactly what the story is.
Want MORE Logline Help?
No problem – B2W’s got you covered! Sign up for B2W’s new online mini course, Logline Hacks! This mini course is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to creating your own logline or short pitch for your spec screenplay or unpublished novel, avoiding the common mistakes and pitfalls. Using tried and tested methods – or ‘logline hacks’ – this mini course will change how you view loglines and enable you to get to the heart of your story. ENROLL NOW.