Blake Snyder is well-known for his screenwriting advice. Turns out what works for film also works for novels! This guide offers advice on using index cards to write your scenes, finding that one saving trait in an unlikable character, marketing your manuscript and much more. My favourite advice is on writing the logline. Not only do you need a killer log line, but Snyder says write it before you write your novel. This will check if your story idea is strong enough.
What do you need for a killer logline? There are four essential elements every logline must have:
Irony - Character sets out to do/avoid one thing, until circumstances flip that plan on it's head! Look for key words like 'until', 'but', 'however'. Shows your characters original motivation/intention and the conflict that changes everything.
Promise - A good logline suggests a whole story. It promises big things to come. It should set up more than just the start of the story. For example, don't write: Sarah moves to France to open a flower shop. Put in the twist: Sarah moves to France to open a flower shop but finds reality does not match the dream when she is swindled out of her life savings for a run down store, can't speak the local language and discovers she's allergic to roses.
Audience - Suggests the market, who will want to read this book, who does it appeal to? Snyder suggest including an idea of the cost in production - if it's an epic film that will promises amazing special effects and big stars. That's helpful for scripts, but books have the equalising affect of all requiring the same medium to deliver (digital or paper), unless you have a specialised app with personalised games, or other expensive elements.
Killer Title - Your title should say what the story's about. Don't be vague. The title should 'nail the concept' without being overly obvious. When a reader spots your title they should start imagining the plot. This one line will show if your character and conflict are strong enough for an appealing story.
Snyder suggests holding off writing your story until you've written the killer log line. If you have to keep fudging your logline to include all the elements above, you may spot something your story is missing.
Want to learn more about writing loglines? Check out these links:
Gaston Broadcast: Logline examples
Creating Bomb-proof Loglines by Lenore Wright