Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

“What’s you novel about?” ….Oh crap, I haven’t thought of a log line yet!



What’s my novel about you ask?


Have you ever had that moment where you’re like, crap, how do I explain to a most-likely-only-politely-interested person my entire life’s work for the past months or years? And then you’re talking and watching their face and their eyes are glazing over and it’s obvious that you’re making NO sense. That leaves you like, okay, crap how do I gracefully end this conversation without just doing this:

ImageAfter it’s all said and done, it may leave you feeling like, wow, if I can’t explain my novel in an interesting, coherent way, who’s ever going to want to read it? What is the meaning of my life even?????

ImageOkay, maybe not quite that bad, but….

Honestly, I sometimes even have a hard time explaining after I’ve written my synopsis and query letter. I’ll over-explain or under-explain or tell too much about subplots or secondary characters. It’s hard to quickly, coherently explain a novel in a few sentences, but we have to have our “elevator speech” ready if we’re going to pitch to agents or even self-publish. Oh, the joys of being a writer. We can’t just write a novel and be like, YEAH! IT’S AWESOME SO READ IT! We have to persuade people with very short attention spans that our novel is worth hours of their time. That’s a whole different art.

Have you ever had this happen to you? How do you prepare your “elevator speech” or log line?


18 thoughts on ““What’s you novel about?” ….Oh crap, I haven’t thought of a log line yet!

  1. Juan Zung

    This happens to me all the time! I get so bogged down in literary terms (that I’m not even sure of the meaning of), plot elements and the ever-lurking-near-panic. I rarely walk away from these kinds of conversations feeling like I’ve communicated anything of value.

    So, for the time being, I just keep it super short and vague. Something like, “It’s a work in progress. Science Fiction, mostly.”

    It sorta weeds out the uninterested. Most people are more than satisfied with that answer. And people that want to know more are usually genuinely into it (or they’re also writers), which helps turn the conversation towards an actual dialogue instead of an anxiously awkward and unsolicited salespitch.


  2. Mariam Tsaturyan

    Oh my god, as I was reading your post, I imagined something like that happening to me! Crap, I have nothing prepared. I don’t even know if I myself understand it well yet. By the time I got to end of your post, I thought of a short sweet speech lol. Now I am off to refine my introduction for my book lol.


  3. eclecticalli

    I am absolutely, positively, terrible at summaries. Summarizing other people’s work is hard enough, but my own? Ugh…. and putting it into a sentence or two… I have a hard time putting much of anything into a few sentences — much less writing I’ve put so much time, energy, heart and soul into.


  4. Bront'e

    I have this moment all the time too! So I try to prepare myself for that question by writing it down somewhere, everywhere, and constantly reminding myself of it (even though I always forget it as soon as I’m asked).

    I start off fine, by saying something like ” it’s about a girl who…” Then right after I say what happens and the main conflict, I feel the need to explain backstory. And then, because my stories are fantasy worlds that I’ve created with races and terms and worldbuilding details, I feel like I also have to explain that too.

    So it turns out to be more like ” but because she’s an Elite, (backstory) and then theres a war (more backstory) ” etc.

    In the end, even I forget what my story is about… xD


  5. Harliqueen

    This made me chuckle, those GIFs summed it pretty perfectly 😀

    It is difficult when people ask that question, because even if you have something prepared, the person you’re speaking to might not be interested in the way you’ve worded it. A lot of the time I’ve found, if you take into account the type of person whose asking, and word the summary a different way, it gets them interested here as someone else might not have found the way you explained it interesting (Sorry, I hope that wasn’t too confusing!).


  6. teannadorsey

    I get asked this all the time and there’s always that moment of ‘oh crap’ while I mentally try to summarize in a coherent way. After a few people ask I memorize something that seems to work, but its not easy. I still haven’t found a log line for my current WIP, hopefully no one asks for a while.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Lol yes! So for my current WIP, someone from my writer’s group actually came up with my log line lol so now I just throw that around haha.Yeah, it definitely gets easier after a few people, that’s for sure!


  7. Jennifer Austin - Author

    Only all the time! I’d stumble over myself for several minutes, mumbling incoherently until I got something out. Now I have a little something prepared that sounds a lot better! Funny how you can write 100,000 words no problem and freak out about 250.


  8. Desiree B

    This happens to me so much that I totally avoid the question (to no avail). When I do TRY to tell someone about my WIP I usually stumble and make no sense. Then I feel like crap because I completely disgraced my precious snowflake 😦



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