I have a confession. Right now, at this point in my fledgling writing career, I live in fear of one, single question. It’s a common one, too. In fact, it’s the one thing you would expect to be asked after just completing a novel.
“So, what’s your book about?”
Did you see my knees buckle a little there? Can you sense my pulse racing? I’m sorry, I think I hear a cake burning…
It’s not like I don’t know what my novel is about. After all, I did write the damned thing, didn’t I? Sure, I describe myself as the Interpreter of Inspiration, and I claim that my writing flows through me like I’m a conduit of the unseen. But I’m still a very large part of that process, and I know what hits the page. I even wrestle it into place, hone it and make it my own. I can tell you exactly what happens, chapter by chapter, in excruciating detail.
But how to quickly — conversationally — explain what it’s about, is something I’ve not yet figured out.
I have a logline, a brief summary and an elevator pitch. I’ve written a basic query letter. I’ve discussed the plot and characters at length with beta readers. And yet, when someone in the break room at work says, “Oh cool! What’s it about?” I get this intense desire to crawl into a hole and disappear.
“It’s a book… and stuff… about things….” <slinks away>
That is NOT the answer I should be giving. So here I am, navigating on instinct through uncharted waters, realizing another piece of the puzzle that’s missing: The Conversational Logline.
I think I just coined a new phrase! A quick internet search turns up no matches. There are lots of articles on loglines, but it’s all centered around the sales pitch. They look kind of like this:
“Special Agent Kessa St. James returns to the site of a childhood nightmare to solve a high-profile murder, where she must reconcile her past, her beliefs and her very identity to rescue a small town from an unimaginable fate.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to pitch to a friend or coworker. I just want to describe what my book is about in such a way that it’s enticing, interesting and friendly. I want them to think, “Huh, maybe I’ll pick up a copy when it’s published.” I do not want them thinking, “Who hit the playback button on Shanan?” And that’s exactly what an elevator pitch feels like to me: Prerecorded information to pass on, and on, and on. Not the desired effect when I’m chatting up a friend around the water cooler.
I don’t yet have this conversational logline idea nailed down, but I’m thinking it should include some basics: Genre, setting and basic plot. Join me now while I brainstorm….
“It’s called Rising. It’s an urban fantasy novel about an FBI agent who realizes there’s more to the natural world than meets the eye.”
And if they go, “Oh, neat! Tell me more!” I could then continue with details. Depending on who I’m talking to, I might bring up the fact that it’s set in my home town. Or I might mention that there is a good amount of sexual tension mixed in with the supernatural realism. I could add some details about the particular magical system that comes into play, or the mythology behind it. The idea is, when I’m talking to a friend or coworker, it’s a different focus from something that gets sent to a potential agent in writing.
It’s a work in progress, but at least it feels more conversational than the logline. And maybe the end result is that my elevator pitch will become something of a hybrid… somewhere between formal and informal. Less automaton, but not completely casual either. Maybe the elevator pitch and the conversational logline will be close relatives. One thing is certain though: Being able to adequately and comfortably describe my book feels like it’s pretty important. It’s another something to work on.
How do you describe your work to friends, family and coworkers? How does it differ from your professional sales pitch?