Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Day Seventeen: Idea to Novel Workshop: Turning Your Idea into a Summary Line

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Welcome to Day Seventeen of Fiction University’s At-Home Workshop: Idea to Novel in 31 Days. For the rest of the month, we’ll focus on plot and the major turning points of a novel.

Today, we’re clarifying our idea so we know exactly what we’ll be writing.

Turn Your Idea into a Summary Line

A summary line is a one-sentence description that sums up what your idea is about in a way that also captures the key elements needed to turn that idea into a novel.

At this stage, don’t feel you have to write a pitch-perfect, one-sentence line. This isn’t for agents or editors, it’s for you. The goal here is to define the key elements of your story and plot so you can further develop them into an entire novel.

What the Summary Line Is

The summary line has many different names. The hook, the logline, the through line, the premise line, the pitch. Depending on context, each varies a little in meaning, but at the core they all mean the same thing—the one sentence that sums up the novel.

A good summary line provides a clear sense of what the novel will be about. It often contains what first excited you about the idea, but it’s more than just a spark of inspiration. It captures the core conflict and essence of the novel in a way that allows you to build a plot from it.

Why the summary line is important:
During the drafting stage, this line will remind you what the novel is about and what you want to explore or illustrate in the book. Later, this line can develop into your pitch line for agents and editors, and be the answer to the question writers get all the time: What’s your book about?

If you’re having trouble getting started, try this template:

[The protagonist] + [what’s important about the story] + [the twist or hook].

The protagonist: This is who the novel is about.

What’s important about the story: This is usually the conflict or character arc, but it could also include a situation or character detail, or even what’s at stake. This is probably why you decided to write this book.

The twist or hook: This is what makes what’s important to the story matter. It’s the complication, the stakes, the conflict, the goal, or any number of pieces that take the novel and elevate it to “ooooh, that’s cool” status.

For example:
A meek bank teller discovers a magical ancient mask that unleashes his deepest desires and gives him superhuman abilities to act on them. (The Mask)
Don’t be afraid to mix it up or move the order around if that works better for your idea.

EXERCISE: Create your novel’s summary line.

By now you should have a pretty good idea what your novel is about, what the core conflict is, who your main characters are (both protagonist and antagonist), what their goals are, what the stakes are, the setting, the theme, and the hook. Some of the details might still be vague, but the foundation of the novel is there.

Those following along with the PYN book: Workshop Eight goes into a deeper analysis of the summary line with examples, and offers multiple exercises and questions to further flesh out the idea.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at turning this summary line into a summary blurb.

Follow along at home with the book, Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure. Get more brainstorming questions and things to think about, in-depth articles, and clear examples of every step from idea to novel.

Paperback: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound  | Google Books | Books-A-Million | Chapters/!ndio

Ebook: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Overdrive | Kobo | Inktera | Chapters/!ndio

Go step-by-step through plotting and writing a novel. Learn how to find and develop ideas, brainstorm stories from that first spark of inspiration, develop the right characters, setting, plots and subplots, as well as teach you how to identify where your novel fits in the market, and if your idea has what it takes to be a series.

With clear and easy-to-understand examples, Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure offers ten self-guided workshops with more than 100 different exercises to help you craft a solid novel. Learn how to:
  • Create compelling characters readers will love
  • Choose the right point of view for your story
  • Determine the conflicts that will drive your plot (and hook readers!)
  • Find the best writing process for your writing style
  • Create a solid plot from the spark of your idea
Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure also helps you develop the critical elements for submitting and selling your novel once it’s finished. You’ll find exercises on how to:
  • Craft your one-sentence pitch
  • Create your summary hook blurb
  • Develop a solid working synopsis And so much more!
Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is an easy-to-follow guide to writing your novel or fixing a novel that isn’t quite working. 

Available in paperback and ebook formats.

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book.

She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy.

When she's not writing novels, she's teaching other writers how to improve their craft. She's the founder of Fiction University and has written multiple books on writing.
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