Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The One Sentence Pitch

The one sentence pitch (AKA, my mortal enemy) can be tough. We writers have about 25 words to sum up our entire novel.

For me, a little panic sets in when I sit down to write a pitch. I am a notorious under-writer, but I still have trouble with this. There is so much I want to say, but so little room to do it. Here's my method for keeping down the word count and staying true to the story.

The one sentence summary is all about being concise, so the first thing to go when figuring out what to include is your subplot. It's a subplot for a reason, right?

Okay, now that I've narrowed my pitch down to just my main plot, where do I start? Well, lucky for me, Nathan Bransford has come up with a fill-in-the-blank formula that can be customized to almost any story. (After you're done here, go read his post, it gives a lot of great advice. Better than I could ever give!)
When [opening conflict] happens to [character], they must [overcome conflict] to [complete their quest].
There, now I should have no problem coming up with a pitch, right? Not so much. But you know what they say - practice makes perfect!

Since I'm not quite ready to share my one sentence pitch, here are some one sentence pitches for popular books*:
Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel - a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.
- The Book Thief
In future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, sixteen year old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place.
- The Hunger Games
When a dark prophecy begins to come true, sixteen year old Evie of the International Containment Agency must not only try to stop it, she must also uncover its connection to herself and the alluring Shapeshifter, Lend.
- Paranormalcy

*If you want to read more pitches, just open your favorite book to the copyright page. Most books include a "summary" line.


  1. I think the biggest problem with doing our own one-sentence pitch is that we want to show ALL the parts of our story. We can't set things aside.
    I have someone else tell me what my story was about. It gives me a good jumping off point.

  2. That's a great tip, Jolene. Also a good way to find out if your story is REALLY what you think it's about.