This phrase comes from the idea that if you got into an elevator and a conversation with a stranger, could you say what your book is about before two floors pass and one of you steps out?
On the 16th of this month I’ll be presenting a session on this at the 2nd annual Cuenca International Writer’s Conference up in the Andes in Cuenca, Ecuador. I’ll be combining it with how to write a synopsis that sells…but I’ll save that for another blog post so we can focus right now on the elevator speech that describes your book in one sentence.
This is your mini sales pitch. Most start with the main character’s inciting incident, describes his/her problem or challenge, and introduces the deadline and/or consequences.
If your story is historical, you want to establish the time period:
“In 18th century Suriname, wealthy black plantation owner Elisabeth Samson schemes to get the one thing her money can’t buy—and Dutch law forbids—a white husband.” — Elisabeth Samson, Forbidden Bride
You want to introduce your main character and say just enough about the plot to make your listener or reader curious to know more.
If your story location is critical to the story, you want to identify that:
“When the world’s most famous magician dies in a Las Vegas roller coaster escape stunt on national television, single mom detective Cheri Raymer faces the most devastating personal threat in her career when her teen-aged son, fascinated by magic, becomes the protégé of a suspected killer.” — Magicide
If there is a deadline key to the story, you want to say that:
“The search is on for six million dollars hidden in a vintage Las Vegas Hotel/casino destined for destruction.” — Implosion
You want to use powerful high-drama words like, schemes, devastating, threat, incredible, unimaginable, inconceivable, forbidden, destruction…to spark curiosity.
And keep it short. Most elevator speeches can be under 100 words.
Check out the bestsellers in your genre at Amazon.com for more examples that will spark the ideas to describe your novel.
Then share your one-line story “pitch” with us in the comments section below.
In preparing to print a calendar of famous writers’ quotes for the 2nd annual Cuenca International Writers’ Conference next week, I read this one by Stephen King:
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Once I asked a woman in a writers group who was writing a romance novel who her favorite romance author is. Honest to God, this is what she said, “Oh, I don’t read romance. I read science fiction.”
Am I the only writer who thinks it’s important to know what readers are reading in the same genre in which I’m writing?
Do you have a favorite writer who inspires you? Whom you would like to emulate in your own writing?
My favorites are Carl Hiassen, Elmore Leonard and Harlan Coben. Who are yours?
Can you answer this question in one sentence?
This type of “answer” is often referred to as “your elevator speech” or your “book blurb.” It tells the reader in simple terms what to expect when they read your book.
On March 16 I’m scheduled to present a session at the 2017 Cuenca International Writers Conference in Cuenca, Ecuador. My 50-minute session is entitled: “Getting to the Essential: How to Organize & Write Your Elevator Speech & Your Synopsis.” The focus will be on how and why you need to do this.
It’s easy to break down your novel and say what it’s about if you follow the basics of journalism: who, what, why, when & where? Addressing these questions forms the basis for your elevator speech and your blurb, your description of what your book is about.
Let’s look at two such descriptive sentences and break down what makes them effective.
“The search is on for six million dollars hidden in a Las Vegas Hotel destined for destruction.” (IMPLOSION)
The search (what) is on for six million dollars hidden (why) in a Las Vegas Hotel (where) destined for destruction (when).
“When the world’s most famous magician dies on national television in a Las Vegas roller coaster escape stunt, it’s no accident and all the suspects are magicians with plenty of secret motives for murder.” (MAGICIDE)
“When the world’s most famous magician (who) dies on national television (what) in a Las Vegas roller coaster escape stunt (where), it’s no accident and all the suspects are magicians with plenty of secret motives for murder. (Why)”
Another way to approach this is to describe your character, the inciting incident (what happens to him that triggers the story), what he/she must then do, and why (or else!)
Here’s a formula you can use:
Description of character…must do….verbal action….by…..or…..
To further get a feel for this, read imdb descriptions of movies and tv series:
“Jack Bauer, Director of Field Ops for the Counter-Terrorist Unit of Los Angeles, races against the clock to subvert terrorist plots and save his nation from ultimate disaster.” (24)
“A working-class African-American father tries to raise his family in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life.” (Fences)
“A manipulative Southern belle carries on a turbulent affair with a blockade runner during the American Civil War.” (Gone With the Wind)
“Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.” (The Legend of Tarzan)
“A bipolar CIA operative becomes convinced a prisoner of war has been turned by al-Qaeda and is planning to carry out a terrorist attack on American soil.” (Homeland)
Now, I challenge you to take ten minutes and write one sentence that describes your story, and share it in the comments below.
And why are we so obsessed with it? Is it based in a fear of somehow not being good enough?
Where does this idea that things should never be flawed come from, anyway? Was it something mom said, or a favorite teacher?
Does the challenge to write the perfect book scare the bejeeses out of you?
It’s one thing to have high standards—we should all aspire to something—but to be obsessed with achieving perfection will only hold us back. It will keep us from writing our strongest messages, our strongest dialogue, our strongest characters.
We accept that great literary characters are flawed characters. It’s their quirky flaws that make them memorable.
We should accept that we are not perfect writers, either. We can only do the best we can do. And often, that’s enough. So, I challenge you to just write, and don’t think about whether or not it’s “perfect.”
After all, DONE is better than PERFECT.
I hate how many times I heard this in high school English class. Now I have to admit the teacher was right.
DON’T WRITE WITH CLICHÉS!
Okay, I know all caps indicate yelling. But the teacher yelled at me, so now I get to yell at you.
Certain phrases (two or more words) have become so overused that the expression is no longer either clever or novel. Now they’re just boring and tiresome. They no longer have any strength of meaning. They don’t add any specific details that give the reader a clear picture with which to identify.
They are so generalized they contribute nothing to the story you are writing.
Theodore A. Rees Cheney addressed clichés in GETTING THE WORDS RIGHT: How to Revise, Edit and Rewrite. While he wrote this book in 1984 and revised it in 1990, his advice remains sound.
To help you find places in your manuscript where you may have inadvertently used a cliché, run an EDIT/FIND for the words like and as. These two words often precede a cliché.
A great website that lists the largest collection of clichés ever compiled is clichesite.com. On this site you can search for clichés alphabetically by the first word of the cliché phrase, submit a cliché if you don’t see it listed, and even check on their “Cliché of the Day.”
Googling cliché will bring up a long list of sites where you can explore this subject further.
For more detailed information on CLICHES and the editing process, CLICK HERE.
No doubt you’ve learned a lot so far in your career.
Why not turn it into a book?
Inc.com says, “A book can be a powerful tool for advancing your career and establishing yourself as a brand and as an industry leader.”
Writing a book is a great way to establish yourself as a credible expert. It will impress colleagues and potential employers, make you stand out from competitors, and increase your market value.
But first you want to do your homework. Learn about the publishing business. Research who else has already written a book similar to yours.
Then work with the best. A professional publishing team—which can include a ghostwriter, an editor, a publisher, a distributor and a promoter—will help you present yourself as polished and professional.
Book developer and publisher Lynne Klippel, owner of Business Building Books, offers a free BOOK BUSINESS PLAN to get you started. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Ask yourself: What if you invested $2,000 and got an amazing promotion? Or the new job of your dreams?
Would it be worth it?
Valentine’s Day naturally makes us think of romance. And what could be more fitting than a good romance novel?
When I first decided to write a novel, I decided to write a romance, Hard Amazon Rain. After all, what could be easier?
I discovered that romance is perhaps the most difficult genre to write. Romance readers are…. well…picky.
They have clear expectations, “rules” if you will.
- Boy/girl meets boy/girl
- They fall into attraction,
- Love is thwarted,
- Maybe there’s some danger to the heroine involved,
- They overcome the obstacles,
- And they live happily ever after.
That’s as close to a formula as I can imagine. But there are great love stories that don’t follow this “formula”: Romeo and Juliet and the movie, Love Story.
How boring romance rstories would be if we wrote them all to some imagined “formula!”
In an RWA (Romance Writers of America) critiquing class I learned to ask five questions of my characters:
- What do they want?
- Why do they want it?
- How do they plan to get it?
- What’s standing in the way of their getting it?
- What will happen if they don’t get it?
When those questions are answered, you have Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. This is what makes stories memorable, but it’s by no means a “formula.” These are just the ingredients that make your romantic story memorable.
So, is Goal, Motivation, and Conflict a “rule” that can be broken? I don’t think so—at least I can’t figure out a way to do it, or why I would even want to, when it works so well.