One of the great social media tools for writers is the ability to pitch our work directly to editors and agents via Twitter. It’s rude and unprofessional to pitch to them directly via Twitter or any other social media (this is considered spam, people). However, there are Twitter pitch events every now and then where editors and agents participate and request partial or full manuscripts from writers. #PitMad and #SFFpit are two examples.
Creating a logline that distills the essence of your story in as few words as possible has always been a necessity for writers. Creating one for a Twitter pitch event can be even more of a challenge, as you have only 140 characters, some of which have to be used with the pitch event hashtag, and sometimes also indicate the genre and age category (MG, YA, NA or A for middle grade, young adult, new adult or adult).
Reading through some of the pitches during these events, what jumps out immediately is how bad most people are at creating Twitter pitches.
I used to work as a reader for a film company and had to create loglines for each script or book I covered. It’s WAY easier to create one for someone else’s work. (I struggle like everyone else when I have to create one for my own stories.) But you can avoid these common pitfalls:
1. Far too vague: While you can’t go into a ton of specific detail in less than 140 characters, you have to have SOME detail. Stay specific, about character, plot and genre. (Yes, some pitches are so vague you can’t even guess the genre.)
For instance: “A girl saves her society from an oppressive government” is severely lacking in detail.
Better: “A 16 year old girl takes her sister’s place in a televised fight to the death and becomes a symbol of rebellion to her repressive society.”
2. Includes proper names: This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but it’s better to avoid proper names in loglines/pitches. This is especially the case when you are working with the Twitter 140 character limit.
Sure, in The Hunger Games example, I could have used: “Katniss takes her sister Prim’s place in a televised fight to the death and becomes a symbol of rebellion to Panem.” None of those proper names convey anything useful. By using “16 year old girl” it indicates the story is a YA without having to indicate it somewhere else in the pitch. The name Prim is superfluous and Panem is meaningless to anyone not already familiar with the story.
Instead of telling your character(s) names, indicate something (again) SPECIFIC about them. Occupation is often a good bet. “A New York cop must save his ex-wife when she is taken hostage by terrorists” is better than “John must save Holly from some bad guys.”
3. Not focused enough on character: An effective logline is about WHO your character is, WHAT your character wants, HOW your character is trying to get what she wants. (You can add WHY, if there’s room in the pitch.)
“A farm girl swept away by a tornado to a magical land must find a wizard and evade a vengeful witch to make her way back home.”
Notice I’ve not only indicated the who, what, and how (farm girl, get home, find the wizard) I’ve also included the inciting incident (swept away by tornado) the antagonist (witch) and genre (fantasy).
4. Nothing mentioned about the conflict/antagonist/forces of antagonism: This is a big part of what makes your concept work–whether or not the forces causing the major conflict are strong enough to sustain a compelling story.
Again, specifics help, as well as carefully chosen adjectives (“vengeful witch,” “ravenous shark,” “maniacal dictator” would be some examples).
5. Too much about what’s happening TO the main character: The best stories have characters that are active, not reactive. Indicate how your character is facing her challenge(s).
6. No indication of what’s unique about the story: What sets your story apart from others like it? This is especially critical if your story is a genre that is currently thought to be on the wane (i.e. dystopian, paranormal). I once saw a pitch for a dystopian story told from the point of view of those in power. It generated interest from an agent who said he was sick of the genre but loved the unique twist.
7. Ignores basic rules of grammar: Yes, I get it–people are trying to squeeze as much as they can into 140 characters, and may feel it’s fine to throw the grammar rule book out the window. They may get away with some minor flubs that are obvious attempts to cram everything into the 140 characters, but I’ve seen people pitch with poorly-worded sentences and spelling errors. That’s a bad move. After all, you’re supposed to be impressing people with your writing.