10 Minute Writer

Confessions of a Busy Mom Who Became an Independent Novelist

Reducing Novels Down To A Sentence (Or What’s Been On My Mind Lately)

I’v been working on a novel, RED STATE BLUES, about an hour a day, for two and a half years. I want to write this book, I want to see it represented, I want to see it published, I want to see it sold, I want to see it enjoyed. To have all of these goals accomplished I need to do all of these things to get me there, like write proposals, and query letters, and pitches.

Ugh. It’s hard work. Sometimes this work knocks the wind out of me.

But the good news is, last Saturday, I came up with ideas on how to do this. I reduced my story to one sentence.

It was this: RED STATE BLUES: What would happen if you and your brother were partly responsible for the demise of your father’s church?

Then, after mulling that around for a while, I came up with this:

RED STATE BLUES: How two siblings reluctantly returned to their hometown, humbly learned grace and indirectly destroyed their father’s ministry. A Comedy.

Then, I pitched it to an unsuspecting acquaitance on Twitter. She gave me her opinion, and I strengthened it. With this:


RED STATE BLUES: It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Quentin and Kim were two notoriously obnoxious pastor’s kids growing up. After a disturbing accident, they give up the pranks and turn their backs on God. Years later, they reluctantly return to their father’s church, where they see for the first time what grace and forgiveness is. Can they communicate what they’ve learned to their church, without offense, before their congregation splits? Can they speak the truth in love to their father without alienating him?

Now, picture if you will, what it might say on the inside jacket of a book:

RED STATE BLUES: Perhaps this is God’s idea of a joke, but Quentin Roach, a formerly obnoxious Pastor’s Kid, is coming home to Videll, Oklahoma for the perfect job. Now his Catholic/Unitarian wife, Suzanne, can have the homesteading life she’s always wanted. But Suzanne’s fourth pregnancy becomes increasingly complicated. Her high expecations for home and family can’t be met. Can she extent grace to her meat-eating, Conservative, traditional congregation who only wants to help?
Meanwhile, Quentin’s sister, Kim, loses her boyfriend and job in one swift move and is forced to work as her father’s temporary church secretary. Kim has to face the fact that she’s failed, not just her parents, and her congregation, but herself. Can she receive grace and see herself the way God sees her?
And Quentin, as his faith grows, will he be able to honor his father, the Pastor, and guide him to truth, all before the congregation implodes?

Okay — this is where I need your opinion. Please leave a comment and tell me what you think of these pitches. Would you read it? Do you think I can add in any hint to the style (rather satirical and witty) to improve on this? WIthout having read the book, what would you give these descriptions?

And this, is what the pros say: Developing an elevator pitch.

I think it far, far harder to write one powerful sentence than to write 50,000 semi-powerful words. Sigh.

Oh, and did you get the title? I can always repeat it if you didn’t. ; )

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3 Responses to “Reducing Novels Down To A Sentence (Or What’s Been On My Mind Lately)”


  1. I most definately would want to pick this up Katharine, I most like the 3rd statement though love the sentences as well. Only bit I am not sure about is using the word ‘destroy’ as this has very negative connotations and I am suspecting that it having the church ‘destroyed’ could be a postivie (I might be wrong!).


  2. “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt” is too cliche. It would make me put the book down right away. I would also take out the word “meanwhile” in the inside jacket part. I don’t know how to explain why I don’t like it, other than to say that it sounds like too much of an instant summary word. it makes it sound like you are retelling the story instead of creating interest in the story.

    Also, the word “extent” should be “extend”.

    I like the revised one sentence explantation. It sounds like a book I might want to read!

  3. Kathy

    Regina, Thanks for your honesty! You’re right, a cliche is a bad idea. You’ve encouraged me to be better.
    Thanks!

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