If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

April Interviews

4/1 Jennifer Chow, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue
4/8 John Gaspard
4/15 Art Taylor, The Boy Detective & The Summer of '74
4/22 Maggie Toussaint, Seas the Day
4/29 Grace Topping, Staging Wars

Saturday Guest Bloggers
4/4 Sasscer Hill
4/18 Jackie Green

WWK Bloggers:
4/11 Paula Gail Benson
4/25 Kait Carson


WWK is proud of our four Agatha nominees. Kaye George for Best Short Story--not her first time to be nominated, Connie Berry and Grace Topping for Best First Mystery Novel (wish they weren't having to compete against each other), and Annette Dashofy for Best Contemporary Novel--her fifth nomination!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Kaye George's first novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Revenge is Sweet, will be released on March 10th. Look for the interview here on March 11.

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, will be released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here on April 29th.

Don't miss Shari Randall's "The Queen of Christmas" available on at Amazon. Shari's holiday story for WWK was too long so she published it for our enjoyment. It's available for 99 cents or on Kindle Unlimited for free!

KM Rockwood's "The Society" and "To Die A Free Man; the Story of Joseph Bowers" are included in the BOULD Awards Anthology, which was released on November 19. KM won second place with a cash prize for "The Society." Congratulations, KM! Kaye George's "Meeting on the Funicular" is also in this anthology, which can be bought for 99 cents on Kindle until November 30.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!


Saturday, January 19, 2013

The logline—Who needs it? How do I write one?

Today Kelly Whitley joins Salad Bowl Saturdays and talks about something I do kicking and screaming--and then not well: writing a logline for a novel.


This is the secret weapon that says you know what your story is about and can sum it up in one sentence. It’s the jewel you can memorize and blurt out at any time.

Otherwise known as the “elevator pitch,” the logline is a twenty-five to thirty word summary of your story. It needs to indicate the main characters, the conflict, and the story question. Whole workshops are given on the topic.

Let’s take a formulaic approach:

(heroine) must (action) with (hero) to (conflict) or (consequence).

A witch on the outs with her coven must work with the demon she put in jail twenty years ago to extinguish a virus before it annihilates all paranormal creatures. (thirty words).

This logline tells us the heroine is a witch, and she’s done something to alienate her own kind.
The hero is a demon, who likely hates the witch for what she did to him in the past. He also has done something that landed him in jail twenty years ago.

These two have to work together, which is going to set up all sorts of conflict.

Their mission is to wipe out a virus. Failing has huge consequences for both of them. As they’re both paranormal creatures, they’ll be susceptible to the virus (danger) and their own kind (both witches and demons) will be wiped out. There’s time pressure in there too. If they don’t succeed in time, the virus will have taken its course.

See how that works?

Now the person you’re pitching to knows what your book is about—it’s a paranormal romance with elements of suspense. Two different kinds of paranormal creatures are involved. The premise lends itself to conflict, with a lot of potential for escalation. They have a larger-than-life mission involving a communicable disease, which is a fresh idea (we hope it’s fresh to her). The consequences are huge, and mean all sorts of friends and family will be at risk and could die—always a crowd pleaser.

Now let’s look at the wording.

A witch on the outs with her coven must work with the demon she put in jail twenty years ago to extinguish a virus before it annihilates all paranormal creatures. (thirty words).

On the outs with” This could be worded as “alienated by her coven.” Why not word it that way?

“Okay…” you say. “What’s wrong with that? We’re saving words, and we don’t get many to start with.”  Because now the coven is doing something to the witch. This is a passive construction. Do we want passive construction? No! We want nice active construction. Both ways mean the same thing, but “on the outs with” is active.

Must work with” It’s not optional. She has to work with him. A specific guy, and from the sound of it, they don’t like each other. It could be “work with,” and that would save us a word. But it also suggests that the situation may be optional—like they’re choosing to work together. “Must” is the stuff conflicts are made of.

Put in jail” This goes to plot. When you’re thinking about plot, think about what generates strong conflict. Minor infractions seldom lead to the type of situation strong enough to carry a book. If we said “the demon she turned into a toad for a day” sounds like he could be irritated, but probably not enough to strongly dislike her. It could be “the demon who jilted her five years ago.” That would still be conflict.

So, a criminal act, something egregious enough to warrant a jail sentence. Something she did that’s bad enough to make him angry. The fun is you get to decide what that was, and how to weave it into the fabric of your story.
Okay, let’s examine the mission. “Extinguish a virus.” Not “kill,” not “eliminate,” not “cure.” Not “give a ten day course of antiviral medication.” Extinguish is a strong verb. Strong words are your friends. Strong verbs do the heavy lifting in writing. Adverbs—words that modify verbs—weaken construction. Stephen King said “The way to hell is paved with adverbs.”

“Why?” you ask. “My eighth grade English teacher Miss Fluffermuffin liked adverbs.”

We could say “Totally wipe out” or “completely eliminate” or “cure in a timely fashion.” Note the –ly, the calling card of the adverb. Editors have strong feelings about adverbs, mostly of the negative kind. If you’re tempted to use one, look at your verb.

Example: “Ran.” It’s a nice verb, gets us from point “A” to point “B” faster than walking. Maybe “ran quickly.” That makes it more exciting. But look what happens…

The editor is frowning, has out her computer-generated red pencil. “I hate adverbs. Stephen King was right!”

How about “bolted?” or “charged?” “Raced?” It grabs attention. “Bolted” grabs your attention. “Bolted?” you say. “My, that’s fast. That’s quick. That’s…getting my attention.”

Now we’re getting to the end of our logline. The consequences. “Annihilates all paranormal creatures.” As you’ve discerned by now, “annihilates” is stronger than “kills.” It’s stronger than “destroys.” The word “annihilates” brings up images of atomic-level destruction with cataclysmic consequences. If they fail, it means creatures from werewolves to vampires will be gone. Never to be seen again. It’s a big deal if you’re a paranormal citizen.

“It could be ‘annihilates the world,’” you say. Okay, I’ll agree with that. But then why did it require a witch and a demon? How about an accountant and the waitress at that dinner where he goes for lunch every day? It could, but then something has to motivate them to save paranormal creatures. Why would these two humans care about the paranormal inhabitants?

Okay. This is the end of my dissection. Now you try it.

(heroine) must (action) with (hero) to (conflict) or (consequence).
Sit down with your story.

Write down the heroine, and one thing about her. A big thing, not her flaming red hair or startling fashion sense—not unless they impact the plot.

Write down your hero, and a defining characteristic. Keep it tied to the plot.

Why might these two not get along? (Conflict) Write it down.

What is the big thing they need to do? (Action) Write it down.

What happens if they can’t accomplish their goal? (Consequence) Write it down.

Chances are you have more than thirty words at this point, but that doesn’t matter. Put these parts together in a sentence that explains your plot. Count the number of words. Don’t despair, we’ll pare it down until it’s svelte.
Look at every word, starting with the nouns. Look at your verbs. Are adverbs tagging along? Get out your thesaurus and find a strong verb. Annihilate the adverbs. Make the verbs able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Look at your clauses. Now this isn’t grammar, and I’m not getting into that. I’ve put the descriptive phrases into brackets here:

A witch [on the outs with her coven] must work with the demon [she put in jail twenty years ago] to extinguish a virus [before it annihilates all paranormal creatures.] (thirty words).

Without the clauses, the logline still reads as a coherent sentence. Not a very exciting one, but still a sentence. Use your words wisely in these clauses. The clauses tell about your characters and your consequences.

I’m not a big fan of names in loglines. Some people are. Names tend to use up words, and you need the descriptions in there. Unless the name has to do with the title or the plot, I leave it out.

Keep chugging away on that logline. Tweak it until it shines, tape it above your computer. Memorize it—you never know when you’ll have to pull it out.


Once upon a time, Kelly Whitley dreamed of becoming an entomologist, then a gymnast, and then an architect. Instead, a career in healthcare became the chosen path. Writing romance allows her to explore the vocations she’d dreamed of and many others.
An arduous journey and many hot fudge sundaes later, her first paranormal romantic suspense debuted in July 2012. Now an ideal day consists of coffee, no phone, and writing quirky characters for her fans to fall in love with. Stop by www.kellywhitley.com, where the paranormal is an everyday occurrence and get your fix for vampires, werewolves, shifters and more. Kelly loves visitors, human and otherwise.


Gayle Carline said...

Loglines are as important after you publish as before. Everytime someone asks you what your book is about and you stumble in describing it, you miss making a sale.

As important as packing the right info into the logline is, it's also important to be able to say it easily. If you're trying to memorize something that you'd never say that way, it's going to sound false. I've seen too many authors, when asked what their book is about, stop making eye contact and recite. It gives the impression they don't have any real passion for what they've written.

I usually develop my loglines at author's festivals, when people are asking me what my next book is about. It's part improv, part fear, but by the end of the day, it's something I can rattle off to anyone who'll listen.

Gloria Alden said...

Good blog, Kelly. I'm going to start working on a new logline today, I agree with Gayle, too, that it must be in words I'd use, too.

Warren Bull said...

Excellent example of writing a log line. It is little things like this that indicate a professional writer. Thanks for sharing.

E. B. Davis said...

I think everyone should think of their logline while writing. With a good logline in mind, the writing stays within the parameters of the story. Thanks for reminding me. Great blog, thanks for posting with us.

site angel said...

Thanks for commenting. I agree, loglines are a big deal--a few critical words. Using your own language of course echoes your voice, and it needs to sound natural when you say it.
It seems I agonize over loglines as much as blurbs.
Thanks for having me--I enjoyed it!
Cheers, Kelly

Julie Lynn Hayes said...

How's this sound then, Kelly?

A witch on the edge must work with the demon she once incarcerated to save the paranormal world from a killer virus.

Great blog post! I love writing loglines, esp someone else's lol

Suzanne de Montigny said...

Gee,I wish I had read this before I entered that contest today.

J.Q. Rose said...

I cannot thank you enough for sharing this today. I like the formula idea to encapsulate the whole 50,000 word novel into 30 words...Amazing!! Now I'm off to share this with my author friends.

Tess Grant said...

JQ Rose did share this with me...most helpful! I mostly blunder my way through these. It's wonderful to have a road map.

Penny Estelle said...

Great post, Kelly. Not only do I see the value of a good logline, but it also showed me I should have listened a whole lot more in my English classes!

Louisa Bacio said...

What a great approach to loglines! I've added a bookmark for future reference!

Anonymous said...

Excellent!! I made notes from your post - will definitely be using it in the future - thank you!