Sixty second writing tips: logline, logline, logline

Anybody remember the Brady Bunch movie and that line – “Marcia Marcia Marcia”? Well, that’s what writers should be saying about loglines.

sleeping-man-with-newspapers-mdLogline! Logline! Logline! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the logline is a key tool for any writer. Any writer? Sure. It works for non-fiction as well. Traditionally, loglines have been the one-sentence rendition of your work you use to sell it to an agent or publisher.

But they are so much more than that. By writing one first – before you even begin writing content – you have to hone your thoughts. Figure out what you’re going to do. First.

What’s a logline? Typically, for novels, it has the form ‘[Named hero] has to [action, usually involving character  growth] in order to [another action] and so [achievement].’ For instance, ‘Cinderella has to learn confidence in order to attend the ball and so win the heart of the handsome prince.’

I had to take copyright action when this book of mine was infringed.
Cover of the second edition

In non-fiction, that one-sentence rendition is known as a thesis – in fact, that one line is what a thesis actually is. Everything else in the 90,000 word doctoral dissertation or non-fiction tome is proof of that thesis. Often it is a simple assertion: ‘First World War military experience provided a mechanism for rescue organisation when earthquake struck Hawke’s Bay in 1931.’ (The book I wrote to prove it was Quake – Hawke’s Bay 1931, now out of print).

The thing is that it performs the same function as a logline – hones the thinking.

Do you use loglines in your writing? How have they worked for you?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013


10 thoughts on “Sixty second writing tips: logline, logline, logline

  1. I won’t *start* writing my story until I have a good logline. Not all ideas have enough depth to become good stories, and developing the logline is the litmus test for me.

  2. The logline gets taped to the wall of my writing room above my desk and to the inside of my laptop between the keyboard and the screen. It keeps the mind focused and helps deflect those dreaded blocks.

    1. Absolutely! I never thought of that one – must follow suit (I have a 1/76 scale model of Rommel’s command vehicle on my monitor stand…which will get a second office as paperweight…)

  3. Hmm I probably don’t do this enough with fiction (I do it all the time with non-fiction, and am forever barking at my students to come up with a thesis in their essays). But I really should, as you say it might help me to focus. Except the fiction story I’m currently planning has about 6-7 subplots that all form the plot. I need to find a way to tie it all together (beyond the theme, which is the current connecting thread)…and in a sentence. Challenge accepted!

  4. Save the logline until the novel/screenplay is finished. It will be more accurate.
    Instead, create a LAUNCHLINE. There is no word limit, sentence limit, or format to it. The LAUNCHLINE is used in place of the LOGLINE to get your writing started. You know your ideas about the story will change before the story is completed. Which means your LOGLINE has to change. So write a LAUNCHLINE. A bunch of ideas about the story you are about to write.

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