The Logline Game

16th November 2021
3 min read
4th January 2022

A useful exercise for writers who are thinking about the submission process, taken from A Writer's Journal Workbook.

A Writer's Journal Workbook

One simple way to structure your book is to write the logline first. The logline is a single sentence that summarises your whole book, shows your theme, your main character and their central conflict. It is fiendishly difficult to write a logline after you have written your book. You will be overwhelmed by the task of capturing your story in one sentence.

But if you start creating a book with your logline already written, you will have such clarity about your story. Your logline becomes your compass. And when you write your first draft, anything that does not move your story forward, based on your logline, does not belong in the book.

Your Logline Is a Compass

First, introduce your character in two or three words.

Examples: a visually impaired guitarist, a troubled runaway, a middle-aged footballer.

Then suggest their goal/obstacle.

Example: the guitarist wants to be a travelling troubadour and walks across America, on her own.

To find your story’s emotional core, keep asking yourself: Why do we care about these characters?

If you get stuck, use sticky notes. Move them around on the desk or on a mat on the floor. Try to capture the big picture of your story. Use your new skills; soar like an eagle over this sentence. Do not spend time editing.

The most common mistake that writers make is to go mouse and fiddle with the words in a logline rather than simply asking: What is my story really about?


Logline Exercse

In the What Is Your Story About? exercise, you wrote about your whole story.

Now tell the core of that idea in one sentence. Keep your sentence to twenty-five words, or fewer.

Example: A female aristocrat falls for an impoverished artist aboard the ill-fated Titanic.

The trick is to write quick, multiple first drafts of your logline and not stop to polish.

Have a go. Set a timer for twenty minutes and write as many versions as you can.


Lucy van Smit is an award-winning author, a screenwriter, and an artist who regrets selling off most of her paintings to pay the rent. After boy trouble, Lucy dropped out of Art School for a year, ran away to New York and dared herself to sell encyclopaedias door-to-door in America. She got her BA Hons in Fine Art, blagged a job in TV, travelled worldwide for NBC News, flew on Air Force One with President Reagan, got surrounded by tanks at Manila airport during a coup, before she chilled and made documentaries for Canadian TV on writers like John Le Carre and Ian McEwan. Lucy is dyslexic with a Distinction in MA Creative Writing. Her debut YA novel The Hurting (Chicken House) won the inaugural Bath Children’s Novel Award. One of six siblings, Lucy lives in London.

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