Monday, June 18, 2012



How to jump-start the process! 

Have a novel in your head that you secretly are dying to write and don’t know how to start? Are you a writer contemplating your next project, but stuck in low gear?
     Here is a simple way to tackle that first step toward making your next novel, writing project, or first attempt, a reality. The first step sounds simplistic, but it becomes your galvanizing point, prompting your novel to completion. It also works as a descriptor for your novel after it’s published.

1. Summarize your novel in one sentence.

     Sound easy? It isn’t. But it’s critical to rounding up all the ideas that have been whirling in your imagination and melding them into your final product. Think of all the steps and ingredients that go into making a banana cream pie. The result, the pie, only becomes a dessert on your table after all the steps and ingredients have been accomplished and would never have been there had you not opened the recipe book.
     A good one-sentence descriptor contains the essence of your story. Don’t pack too many details in that lone sentence. Leave out specific names or places: the idea is to be purely conceptual. If you’re looking for ideas, try reading the movie listings in your local paper. They’ll have short descriptions of  two-hour movies just as your one sentence will describe your novel.
     An example using H.G. Wells’ novel The Time machine: An English inventor travels thousands of years into the future, discovering the devolution of humanity where he had hoped to find utopia.
     Another from Jess Lourey’s November Storm: A newly minted Minnesota PI investigates a suspicious hunting accident, uncovering a brutal small-town secret.
     If you craft this sentence well, it will not only give your entire writing process a boost, but you’ll have a powerful selling line to use with a future agent or potential readers.

Dear Readers,

Last Saturday, I attended a workshop for writers put on by MWA, Mystery Writers of America. It took place in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The group of authors who put on the different classes repeat this program at different locations across the country. I attended it with a friend who’s also a writer and we both thought it was extremely beneficial to our writing. I recommend it highly if there is one in your area.

This step is one of seven from The Pyramid on a Point Method by Jessica Lourey. Her introduction to this simple process was the first class of the day.

I plan on continuing the steps weekly. Next week will be step 2. I hope you will find them as helpful as I did.

Thanks for visiting,


  1. Writer Dave Here,
    Good article, Marla, looking forward to Step 2.
    I constructed a one sentence summary for my upcoming novel,
    "Web of Guilt".
    "Three people with extreme guilt, try to exonerate themselves by
    various means and get tangled up with a gangster."

  2. Thanks, Dave!
    I'm starting Novel three, which so far has been only in my head. As a writer I've been resistant to structure, but this method is simple! Going to try it.
    That first step is the hardest sometimes. Congrats on getting it done.

  3. It's so hard to sum up your work. Great advice, though, and I'll keep my eyes out for more.

    1. It is! But that first sentence, sometimes referred to as your logline, is the all important starting block.
      You can always change as your go, but it's harder to write usefully if you don't know where you're going.
      Now, I have to take my own advice and get going on novel 3!
      Thanks for visiting, I'll have step two posted at the end of the week.

  4. Hi Marla, great post! I use the log line/one sentence technique on all my books, it's also great to have when someone asks you what your books about. :)

    1. Yes! Good for all those things. Hard to get it going, though! My third novel is in the thinking stage, and
      I've changed that line about a dozen times! Must get serious.
      Thanks for visiting, Nicole.

  5. I read the fourth step first and had to come back to the beginning. Great Idea. Thank you :)

  6. Good idea to start at the beginning! A small step, but difficult. Worth spending time on because it's the
    cornerstone for your work!
    Nice to meet you,

  7. Great advice Marla! I found the first sentence of my memoir to be the most difficult to write and I must have changed it over a dozen times before I felt I got it right and could go forward.

    Author Jill Paterson turned me on to your site and I will be back.

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  9. G'Day Marla!
    I Love your writings! How special you are and
    THANK YOU for sharing!


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