Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Of Pitches, Hooks, and Loglines

Lately, I've been thinking about pitching and my hook. A few nights ago, I was up at 2am (as usual) and all of a sudden an amazing query rewrite came to me. I started scribbling furiously and didn't stop until I felt I really was on to something. I think my query is getting there, and in a week or two I'll be sending it off for some critiquing by a friend who knows a lot about querying and has had a lot of success making people's queries shine.

But then I realized that, while I might have a good start, I'm not sure if I have an awesome hook yet - and I definitely don't have a pitch. Like if an agent walked up to me today and said, "I will represent you right now if you can tell me about your novel in less than 10 words!" I would have a serious case of HeatherFAIL because there is no way that I could describe my book in less than 10 words. I would just do that awful rambling thing I do when I don't know what to say, and the agent would roll his or her eyes, walk away, and tweet something hilarious about new writers who don't know what they're doing, and tag it with #pubtip, and everyone on Twitter would join in making fun of the person who blew her chance all because she couldn't finish the sentence: "My book is about..." in 10 words or less. (Seriously. I am actually terrified of this.)

Since SCBWI registration opens today (woot!) and I'm going (double woot!) and I might actually be talking to agents there (triple woot! or gulp!) I asked my friend if she had any advice about hooks. And she started by giving me a homework assignment. I'm supposed to start by writing hooks/loglines for books that I enjoy. That way I'll get a feel for what they're supposed to be, and I can hopefully come upon mine more easily.

So, rather than keep all this learning to myself, I thought I would share it here...

What is a hook/logline?

A hook is one sentence (maybe two, but the key is to keep it short) that explains what your novel is about and draws the reader in or grabs their attention - it literally "hooks" them.  (Loglines are what they call them in movie scripts.)

To give an example, here's a logline for a classic movie (which started as a book):   

After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home.(Source)


Sound familiar? What about this one:

A girl travels to a new land where she kills the first person she meets and then teams up with a bunch of strangers to kill again.

Here's the crazy thing: they're both describing the same movie. The Wizard of OZ. The first hook sounds like a fantasy full of whimsy and surprise, whereas the second sounds much darker, and paints Dorothy as a definite psychopath. It's all about how you want to represent your book.

So I started thinking about some of my favorite books. And I wrote a few hooks. And maybe they're awful. But here they are, for all the blogging world my 163 followers to read. But let's see if you can figure out which books they're for on your own (I substituted character traits for names so as not to give anything away). Maybe some of these aren't that hook-y, but they were fun to write! I also learned that some books are definitely easier to write hooks for than others.

A girl moves to a rainy city and starts dating the hottest guy in school, only to end up being hunted by one of the deadliest creatures alive.

When the school's biggest druggie asks her to pee in a cup to avoid getting busted, a former goodie-two-shoes catches herself falling for the wrong guy.  

A girl is living the worst day of her life over and over again - the day she dies. 

After nearly destroying her high school on prom night, a teen witch is sent to a boarding school containing snarky faeries, shapeshifters, one total hottie, and a series of bloody mysteries that could leave students dead.   

Terrified about what awaits him at the end of the story, a man with undiagnosed anxiety disorder does everything in his power to keep intruders away. 

I'm still not sure what I would say if I met an agent on the street today. (Honestly, it would probably just be "hi." If I met them at a conference, that's when I might pitch. Let's not be crazy stalkers here, people.) How do you even start that conversation? "Hi, I'm Heather, let me tell you about my book?" But I do feel like this exercise in researching and writing hooks has gotten me very close to finding my own. Hopefully with a little more time I'll find the perfect hook that will land me the right agent - or at least get someone to read my pages.

For more on hooks, check out:
Guess my hooks in the comments, and feel free to make up your own to let me (and other commentors!) guess too!

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the info! Pitches and hooks are a long way off for me - I just started writing - but those links will be useful later.

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  2. Great post. Pitches and hooks are really hard.

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  3. nice blog.. have a view of my blog when free.. http://www.lonelyreload.blogspot.com .. do leave me some comment / guide if can.. if interested can follow my blog...

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  4. I know all of them but the last one.
    Twilight
    Sloppy Firsts
    Before I Fall
    Hex Hall

    I'm going to feel like an ass if I actually read that last book and can't recognize the logline.

    Anyway, thanks for the links. As you know, this is something I need to work on.

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  5. You will be great!!! I hope I can register too!

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  6. Ashley - Good luck! You'll get there before you know it!

    Lindsay - I agree, but this exercise really helped. I'll admit there are a few books I want to write books for that I'm still struggling with.

    Mr. Lonely - Thanks!

    Jessica - The last one is actually a picture book....OK, I'll tell, it's The Monster at the End of this Book, with Grover! LOL, I know, a little ridiculous, but I thought it was fun.

    Frankie - I hope you come! I would love to meet you!

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  7. I like this one the best : A girl is living the worst day of her life over and over again - the day she dies.


    Great hook!

    I know what you mean. It is hard to find the best and shortest way to sum up your super-indepth-totally awesome story, with many twists. =)

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