Single-Sentence Summary Course – Introduction

Welcome to class! All this month, we’ll be talking about how you can write a single-sentence summary and use it to write or promote your novel.  I am, as always, delighted to have you here and hope you learn everything you want to know about writing and using single-sentence summaries.

At Indie Plot Twist, our classes are designed for open discussion. My personal philosophy is that the only stupid question is one that doesn’t get asked. If you have a question, chances are others have the same question. So don’t hesitate to ask!

Before we get started, let me lay a few ground rules.

We want open and friendly dialogue. Danielle and I reserve the right to reject any comments that are rude, obnoxious, or mean. Write your questions or comments with same care with which you’d ask a question in a live classroom setting and you should be fine.

No self promotion. If you have something to add to the discussion, great. We welcome it. But we will reject attempts to hawk books or other services to fellow course mates.

A single-sentence summary is a fast easy

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started.

What is a Single-Sentence Summary?

A single-sentence summary is a fast and easy way to tell people what your story is about. You might also have heard the terms tagline or elevator pitch or maybe even logline (for movies). They’re all the same thing.

What’s in a Single-Sentence Summary?

character-goal-obstacle-1Every good single-sentence summary has three things in common. It is a short sentence (usually 25 words or less) that describes a unique character with an interesting goal and a believable obstacle.

That’s it!

If it helps, you can think of it like a simple equation.

Character + Goal + Obstacle = Single-Sentence Summary.

We’ll cover this equation in more detail later this month. For now, keep it in mind as you think about writing your own single-sentence summary.

Why You Need a Single-Sentence Summary

As I mentioned above, you use a single-sentence summary to share your novel with other people. Who? Here are a few:

  • Friends and family members
  • Editors
  • Agents
  • Publishers
  • Book buyers

(I know we focus on indie publishing here, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention agents; you might decide to go hybrid, after all.)

The single-sentence summary is–or should be–your primary marketing pitch and its function is to generate interest in your story.

Now, even with the most sparkling single-sentence summary, your story won’t appeal to everyone. Chances are it will be completely uninteresting to a lot of the people who ask you what your writing about.

That’s okay. If your single-sentence summary doesn’t interest them, you know not to waste their time—or yours—in further discussion of the novel.

For the people who respond positively to your single-sentence summary, you know you can share more of the story.

So finding the people who are interested in your novel is one purpose. Are there others? I’m glad you asked!


You’re at a writer’s conference. Everywhere you look there are agents and editors, maybe even publishers. And other writers. They’re all interested in what you’re working on. What’s the first thing out of your mouth when they ask you? A long, drawn out description?

It better not be. It better be your single-sentence summary.


You’re a newly published author. You’re doing blog tours and podcasts. Every interviewer is going to ask you one question:

“So, Mr., Mrs., or Miss Author, tell us what your book is about.”

You want a ready answer. Something that rolls off your tongue automatically. What is it? Why, your single-sentence summary, of course!

A sparkling single-sentence summary will also be useful on your book launch page or website, at all those wonderful online booksellers, on your business cards (yes, you should have business cards) and other promotional materials, and who knows what else? Can’t you just see that line on a reader’s favorite coffee cup? I can!

Your novel deserves a single-sentence summary. If you plan to publish and market, you owe yourself the best single-sentence summary you can write.

How Do I Write a Good Single-Sentence Summary?

An excellent question and one I plan to answer for you. By the time we get to the end of the course, you will have written at least one single-sentence summary for your work in progress. Participants who post their work in the comments will receive not only my feedback, but the feedback of other students. (I’ll be offering help through the comments only through August 31, 2015, so don’t delay.)

Don’t have a work-in-progress? That’s okay. If you’re planning a novel or editing a novel or if the idea is still new, you can still participate. As you’ll see through this course, there is no wrong time to write a single-sentence summary.

Join us again next week for the next lesson.

In the meantime, spend a little time this week thinking about the three parts of your novel to put into a single-sentence summary. Then list them in the comment section below.

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