What’s in a Log Line?

I recently submitted the manuscript to the second book in the Path of the Warrior Series, Renegade, to a literary competition sponsored by the Florida Writers Association. (Full disclosure: I’m a member.) One of the requirements was submitting a log line.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I really didn’t know what a log line was. It turns out, a log line is a very short, one sentence “pitch” for your book or manuscript. A log line is an even shorter and more pithy “elevator pitch” that effectively assumes the person in the elevator is getting off at the next floor. Log lines are fundamental to selling screen plays, but I hadn’t run across them for novels. That’s a shame; writers should do this with all their work.

The essence of a log line is to distill the fundament conflict and story into one sentence to convey what is interesting about your book. Characters don’t need to be named, but the basic tensions and conflicts should be apparent. A site identifying the top 100 log lines for screen plays can be found here. Norman Hollyn has put together a quick analysis of good and bad log lines as well.

The log line I submitted for Renegade is:

“A 13-year old ‘tough girl’ finds herself in a harrowing struggle for survival when a Latina gang attempts to take over her school.”

Here’s a log line for A Warrior’s Soul:

“A ‘normal’ 13-year old boy is must grapple with his own insecurities when he is faced defending himself and his friends from a bully and his thugs by re-discovering martial-arts skills he considered useless.”

Here’s a log line for The Pirate of Panther Bay:

“A female ex-slave captains a pirate ship in the 18th century Caribbean and falls in love while fighting off mutineers, rival pirates, pirate hunters and a brutal Spanish colonial government.”

While a log line should ultimately be about provoking interest in your book, this is a great exercise because if forces an author to really dig down into their story and also establish for focused marketing efforts for their book.

Author: SR Staley
SR Staley has one more than 11 literary awards for his fiction and nonfiction writing. He is on the full-time faculty of the College and Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University as well as a film critic and research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. His award-winning Pirate of Panther Bay series (syppublishing.com) has won awards in historical fiction, mainstream & literary fiction, young adult fiction, and reached the finals in women's fiction. His most recent book is "The Beatles and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution" due out in April 2020 (Routledge).