Posted On September 4, 2009 by Print This Post

Loglines – A Must for Your Marketing Arsenal

Good morning and welcome to Romance University.  Cindy Carroll joins us today to talk about why we need a logline.  After taking Cindy’s online class,  I discovered having a logline makes everything easier. 

No kidding. 

I recently used the logline I’d created in Cindy’s workshop to draft a query and realized it took me half the time to write the letter than it normally would.  Was that query perfect?  Absolutely not, but I was able to spend more time editing and less time trying to figure out what to say.  All because I had the logline.

Same thing happened with the synopsis.  At that point, I knew I had to ask Cindy to be a guest blogger with us.

So here she is.  Welcome, Cindy!

 I’m going to be talking loglines.  What they’re not.  What they are. Why you need one.

The thing I want to clear up first is what they’re not.  I hear the term tag line used interchangeably with logline all the time.  Loglines are not tag lines.  They are two different marketing tools.  A logline tells you what the story is about.  A tag line goes on the movie poster.  If you heard the line – don’t go in the water – would you know what that movie is about?  Would you have any idea who the protagonist is?  What they want?  What is getting in their way?  What’s at stake?

So what is a logline then?  If someone asked you what your story is about would you know the answer?  Really know the answer?  The logline isn’t plot, twists, sub plot, dialogue.  It’s your concept.  At the most basic level, it’s the spine of your story.  It’s what holds everything together.  Okay, now what is your story about?

The general consensus is that the logline should be twenty-five words or less.  If you go over by a few words that’s fine.  But the twenty-five word limit forces you to be as precise as possible.  Trim the excess words and get right to the point.  There are various schools of thought on what the logline should include.  All of them agree on three things.  The logline should tell us WHO the story is about, WHAT he wants (Goal), and WHY he can’t have it (Conflict).  A good logline will have the GMC .  I like to start my loglines with the inciting incident or character motivation.  Why does the protagonist need to go through this story?  What prompted him to take action?

There are no names in loglines.  Unless it’s about someone famous and that’s the hook.  It should be generic.  An adjective to describe the noun.  Of course there are always editors or agents who don’t mind a logline with names.  But in general I would leave them out.

To stop a murder, a sexy librarian must deliver a rare first edition from the library to the man holding her sister hostage, but the library burns down.

That tells me more then:  To stop a murder, Lexa Tome must deliver a rare first edition from the library to the man holding her sister hostage, but the library burns down.

I actually recommend coming up with the logline first, before writing the story.  Think about how hard it is to write a ten page synopsis after you finish writing the book.  You want to put in all the best parts.  So, it’s even harder to trim down everything to twenty-five words that conveys your story.  Having the logline first helps you stay on track.  Think of it as your thesis statement before writing an essay.  I refer back to my loglines to make sure I haven’t veered off too far in another direction.

So, why do you need a logline?  Besides keeping you focused there’s the marketing angle.  Sometimes all you have time for is that logline if an agent or editor asks.  I put the logline for my book at the beginning of my query.  Because it’s only twenty-five words it fits well on the back of a business card too.  Great for networking opportunities and those agent/editor appointments. 

Give it a try.  Boil that story down to twenty-five words or less.

Thank you, Cindy. 

Does anyone want to be brave and share their logline?  Cindy will be with us if you want to run one by her.

Here’s mine from the online workshop:  When a child molester is murdered, his cousin, a former victim, goes undercover to clear herself of murder and discovers a black market baby ring.

And it’s twenty-five words!

Bio:  Cindy Carroll joined RWA in 1992 and started out writing novels but turned to scripts when an idea for one of her favorite television shows wouldn’t leave her alone. That first attempt, and her second teleplay for the same show, garnered her honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition in the screenplay category.  She graduated from Hal Croasmun’s screenwriting ProSeries intensive in June of 2008.  Her interview with David Rambo, writer/producer for CSI appeared in the summer special edition of The Rewrit, the newsletter for Scriptscene, Romance Writers of America’s screenwriting chapter.  Currently working on the rewrite of her second feature, Cindy is also developing two new television pilots.

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20 Responses to “Loglines – A Must for Your Marketing Arsenal”

  1. Cindy –

    Thanks for being with us today!

    I’ll be brave since I just wrote this for an online class: When a genetics experiment is abruptly aborted, a study participant must find the remainder of the DNA serum that will turn him into a shapeshifter…or die.

    I think it’s a little over 25 words.
    Thanks!
    Kelsey

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | September 4, 2009, 2:50 am
  2. Hi Cindy and thank you for being here. Great lecture. I think I’m a logline addict now. I walk around creating loglines in my head. LOL.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | September 4, 2009, 7:27 am
  3. Thanks for having me.

    Kelsey, great logline. I remember that logline. 🙂

    Adrienne, when I learned how to do loglines I became an addict myself. I’m toying with the idea of starting a logline a day exercise. Just to keep me in practice. Plus you never know what you’ll come up with.

    Posted by Cindy | September 4, 2009, 7:52 am
  4. Cindy, thank you for joining us! I like the idea of melting down your story into 25 words or less. It allows you to get to the real heart of the story.

    Thanks again!
    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | September 4, 2009, 9:22 am
  5. Hi, Tracey.

    Thanks for letting me talk loglines. That’s exactly it. If you can get to the real heart of the story you can also stay focused on what the story actually is when you’re writing it.

    Posted by Cindy | September 4, 2009, 11:01 am
  6. My head is buzzing. Having just finished one manuscript, I can see what you mean about it being better to start out with the logline rather than trying to excavate it from all the details. However, having finished one is more or less synonymous with starting another, so I’m going to try to start with the logline this time.

    Thanks for your help.

    Posted by Beppie Harrison | September 4, 2009, 1:42 pm
  7. I’m a log line addict, too, but entirely the opposite direction–I can’t seem to get the knack–or at least the ones I come up with are so boring even I don’t want to read my story–and I wrote it. *g*

    I took your class, too, and may be one of your (wiping tears here) few failures…..So Cindy, thanks for the additional information. I’ll keep trying until one day…it will click.

    Posted by Barb Huddleston | September 4, 2009, 3:51 pm
  8. Hi, Beppie.

    You’re welcome. I find it really helps to have the logline first.

    Hi, Barb.

    It does take practice but I’m convinced you can master it. You can still send me your loglines if you want help with them.

    Posted by Cindy | September 4, 2009, 8:43 pm
  9. argh!!!! no internet today, so I’ll try sneaking this in and see if Cindy is still around. =)

    Having world-class no-holds-barred sex with your client was a definite no-no. Manhattan’s newest advertising executive Kylie Brandt was the one who made the rule; would she also be the one to break it with super sexy, rich, gorgeous publishing magnate Damien Ryder?

    in the various logline examples (on harlequin) that I have read, they were two lines, and mostly ended with a question. Here’s the other I tried…

    Rock climbing was easy according to well known adventurer and publicist Damien Ryder – compared to getting advertising exec Kylie Brandt into his bed. She has no room for rich playboys in her busy life, much less a wanderer like Damien, or does she?

    any suggestions for a logline loser?

    =)

    carrie

    Posted by carrie | September 5, 2009, 2:36 am
  10. Late to the party… but after reading your article, Cindy, I felt empowered to tackle the logline for my YA urban fantasy I’m writing. Here’s what I’ve come up with: To escape capture by genetic researchers, and learn to control her unique elemental shapeshifting powers, a young girl must trust her life to a renegade werewolf.

    Posted by AE Rought | September 5, 2009, 10:34 am
  11. For a soon-to-be-released book.

    Finding his shifter mate was easy. Now to convince her of her werewolf nature while defending his Pack and family against an unexpected attack.

    Posted by Marilu Mann | September 5, 2009, 12:57 pm
  12. Carrie, AE and Marilu, I will take a look at these and post comments. I had spotty internet on the weekend and then I wasn’t home Monday or Tuesday.

    Posted by Cindy | September 9, 2009, 1:23 pm
  13. Carrie,

    I think the second one is better. Loglines can be two lines. But the general rule is no more than twenty-five words. Usually that means one line. Now, some publishers don’t care if it’s one line or two or even three. The most important thing is to put in the interesting parts so you grab their attention.

    What’s the inciting incident though? And is that the only conflict? She doesn’t have time for rich playboys?

    Posted by Cindy | September 10, 2009, 2:26 pm
  14. AE,

    I like it, it has potential. It has her goal (escaping the genetic researchers, learning to use her powers). It sounds like the researchers are also going to be the conflict. What happens if she is caught? Why is it dangerous for her to trust the werewolf? What happened that prompted the genetic researchers to try to capture her?

    Posted by Cindy | September 10, 2009, 2:26 pm
  15. Marilu,

    That’s pretty good. If he can’t defend the pack against the attack will they all be killed?

    Posted by Cindy | September 10, 2009, 2:27 pm
  16. Hi, Cindy.

    I’m in a bit of a logline-related fix. See, the book I’m writing is a love story, in which the 1st person POV switches from chapter to chapter. This is making the logline hard to come up with, because it’s essentially two stories woven into one, with two plots, and two main characters. I can write a logline focussing on either character’s story, but that doesn’t give the full picture. I’m having trouble combining them succinctly. Never seen a logline for this sort of book to guide me, though I’m sure they’re out there somewhere.

    Any thoughts?

    (And thank you so much for your wonderful advice. I’ve learnt a lot that I can take away from it.)

    Posted by Holly | September 22, 2012, 2:25 pm
    • Hi Holly!

      Thanks so much for those kind words.

      Hmmm. That does make it a little more difficult.

      How do the plots weave together? Do they affect each other?

      If it’s a love story though aren’t the two main characters the people who fall in love? If that’s the case is one of them more prominent than the other? Does one story have more “air time” over the other?

      If someone said Hey Holly, what’s your book about what would you say? What would you focus on?

      Posted by Cindy Carroll | September 25, 2012, 9:49 am
      • I would focus on the relationship. Crummy as it sounds, love is the theme, and the plot is centred around the connection of the two main characters. But then there are two main subplots running alongside that, focussing on the losses in A’s past and B’s secret love of dancing. I think both are also important, and each of the three threads shape the others in some way. Ok, I admit, there isn’t much of a tangible plot line. Most of the conflict is on an emotional/psychological level. Is it a valid excuse to call it ‘character-driven’?

        R.E. your air time question… well, it depends which way you look at it. If you read at face value, looking at the events, B and her dancing are marginally more important, but if you read deeper, A is the one that shapes the story through internal conflict and the things that go on in his head.

        Sorry. I’ve made this very complicated. If you don’t know how to squash that into some sort of logline, don’t worry about it. Ignore me. It’s been useful simply to spell it out in words and I think I will come up with something eventually. I don’t need to market this – I’m really just writing it so I can learn how to write a novel.

        On a side-note:

        A disgraced lawyer living on the streets and a precocious ghost with a passion for grammar team up to bring correct apostrophe usage back from the grave.

        Thoughts?

        Posted by Holly | September 25, 2012, 11:07 am

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  1. […] Cindy Carroll’s Loglines […]

    Gems on the Web — EllaGracen - September 6, 2009
  2. […] welcoming Cindy back for another exciting lecture. If you missed her first post on loglines, click here to learn how to boil your story down to 25 words or […]

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