How to Take This Class
Thank you for signing up for this class! If you proceed thoughtfully through this course, you will end up with a better book and a clearer focus of where you are headed with your novel. Often, planning the book is the hard part! Once you complete your 5 Steps, you will be ready to do the fun part—writing the story!
Contact the Instructor
I would be happy to answer your questions about this course. Please contact Patricia Simpson at email@example.com.
What Do I Use—Phone or Computer?
Since you will be typing text in some lessons and moving things with a mouse or trackpad, it will be easier if you use a laptop or desktop computer to take this course. But you can certainly view everything on your phone.
This course is super easy to take. Just watch the video and interact with the questions you encounter. You can skip the interactions by using the links on the side of the video screen, but I would encourage you to take the time to respond to the questions.
If you can’t hear the audio, try reloading the page (Ctrl R) and going back to Slide 1. The audio takes a while to load, depending on your connection speed. But it should work once you reload the page. Also check that your device volume is not muted. Or that you don’t have earphones plugged in and lying on your desk. (That’s my specialty!)
Using the Interactive Video
Quiz Questions and Interactions
This course doesn’t really have quizzes, so don’t worry. You will, however, encounter questions or activities. If you are asked to match terms, simply drag and drop the bars on the right beside the bars on the left until they hook together. If the submit button doesn’t work correctly for you, just reload the page (Ctrl R). When you are asked if you want to resume where you left off, click NO. Then skip down to the next slide by using the left sidebar. Some browsers have trouble with the interactions.
Printing Your Text Entries for Later Use
You can print out text that you type in this class by using the Print Results button. You can also copy and paste what you type into your favorite text editor, such as Word. IMPORTANT: If you click RETRY QUIZ, you will lose what you have written in a text block. If you wish to make edits to your text, use the REVIEW QUIZ button.
Comments or Questions?
If you have any more comments or questions for ways to improve this course, please enter them below.
Writers use one-sentence pitches for just about everything: query letters, hooks, book summaries, back blurbs and for pitching ideas to editors and agents. We can also use the pitch to guide us as we write our novels. Creating your pitch statement before you start writing a book can become your secret weapon.
But writing the one-sentence pitch is the most difficult task a writer faces. How do we coalesce the soul of our book into a few words? There is so much going on in our novel. So much to say. How do we refine our thoughts and drill down to the nitty-gritty of our story?
Well, I have a formula. Yes, a formula. It’s like Mad Libs. You fill in the blanks with words of your choosing and then refine the statement until you are satisfied with the outcome.
Use the Mad Libs Approach
Here’s the basic statement we will start out with:
When (hypothetical situation), then the only way (main character) can (issue) is to (assumption).
The next step in building a one-sentence pitch is to replace the italicized words above with your own.
1. Choose a phrase for the hypothetical situation in your book.
Hypothetical situation: the world is blanketed by a nuclear winter
2. What is your main character’s name?
Name: London vampires
3. What is the issue you are writing about?
All great books are created by writers who have something to say. Books aren’t just about plot and characters and action scenes. Books are about people facing a tough issue and making a tough moral decision about the issue.
Examples of issues are:
- forbidden love
In The Londo Chronicles, the overarching issue is survival. The creatures who fight to survive are humans and vampires. But in a low sunlight world, what race would flourish? Vampires. And what do the vampires have to do to survive, without resorting to living off unpalatable rodents? They have to make sure human blood is available. So survival is my issue.
4. What is the assumption the main character makes about the issue?
Assumption: must raise humans like cattle.
Here’s Our One-Sentence Pitch
Now, let’s take all the terms we defined in Steps 1-4 and plug them into our Mad Libs pitch statement.
When the world is blanketed by a nuclear winter, the only way London Vampires can survive is to raise humans like cattle.
This is our one-sentence pitch. But here’s the best part. Inside this pitch, we have created a premise. Our main character has made an assumption about survival. The London vampires ASSUME they have to treat humans like cattle in order to survive. This is my premise. Is this assumption true? Or false? At the end of the series, I will prove that humans and vampires aren’t that much different from each other, and neither race should be treated like animals.
If you are having trouble coming up with your premise or assumption, be sure to add “the only way to” to your issue. That will automatically set up two sides to the assumption. A strong character in a novel will always challenge an “only” statement. It’s human nature to do so.
A character’s assumption about the issue is your premise. That’s what you will set out to prove or disprove. Is your character right to make the assumption or hold a certain belief? Or will they find out they’re wrong and change their minds at the end of the book? The entire book will be about the journey the character takes to find out if they are right or wrong about their assumption.
Every type of literary fiction has a premise
Even a mystery novel will be fired by a premise. The assumption usually belongs to the villain in this type of story. Think of how a mystery usually ends, with the bad guy explaining why they did something or the cops figuring out why the crime was committed. Criminals aren’t hung up on the “how” they did something. It’s always the “why.” It’s always about the premise:
- When his daughter is murdered, the only way Roger McBride can get real justice is to track down the guy and kill him.
- When Leslie Lee is discovered having an affair, the only way she can save her reputation is to silence the blackmailer.
Do you see how the Mad Libs technique is employed in the two pitches above?
Detectives always want to find out what really happened. What was the motive? What was the belief or assumption that caused a human being to commit a crime? Think of stories that are based on mere psychopathic actions or cult rituals. These types of stories aren’t nearly half as satisfying as ones that involve a “why” or a “belief in something” or an “assumption.”
Use your one-sentence pitch as a guide
When you use the hypothetical situation/issue/assumption method to build your pitch statement, you will automatically build in a premise. You will then know what you are going to prove or disprove at the end of your book.
Building the premise first will guide you as you write. Your characters will hold personal beliefs about this premise and will take action in regard to it. And at the end, some of your main characters will change their minds about what they believe as you prove or disprove the premise through your protagonist.
Pitch statements and premise are tough things to tackle. I know. I’m like every other writer. I want to write plot. I want to dive into those action scenes, those love scenes, and those scenes where the heroine meets the hero for the first time. But good stories are crafted around premise.
Good stories drive toward proving the premise. If you keep your premise as your guiding star—if you know what your one-sentence pitch is—you will write a much better book. You will satisfy readers on a visceral level. And that means your book will stay with a reader long after they read the last line.
About the Author
Oh, the Times, They are A-Changin’.
These are strange and transformative times, aren’t they? I feel the world consciousness shifting—and in a good way, as we rediscover our strengths and creativity. I’m looking forward to what the Tuesday super moon will bring, as I have super-concentrated on spreading the word about The Londo Chronicles these past four weeks. We’ll see..
During the lockdown, I’ve been focused on my writing, learning more about marketing (something I’ve never had the chance to do) and playing my new guitar. Living this remote life takes me back to my childhood, when we had to entertain ourselves (no TV) or die of boredom. I chose to write, draw, play baseball, explore nature and learn guitar. I’ve never regretted the time I dedicated to any of these activities. They have defined who I am and how I still spend my life. I feel blessed to have found my calling at such a young age.
Need a Distraction While You’re Home?
I have been interviewed for the first time on the Authors Show! It’s a short 15 minute radio show. The segment could be good or bad, but I’ll let you be the judge! (I won’t hear the finished product until you do.) I’ll be talking about my exciting new series, The Londo Chronicles, and my writing life. The interview will air all day Thursday, April 9. You can sign up for the event on my Facebook page.
I hope you’ll tune in and let me know what you think of the show. It’s my first time for doing something like this, so I value your feedback.
Manifesting the Apocalypse
I am so excited for the launch of The Londo Chronicles, starting with the first book, Apothecary. This series is all about surviving in troubled times, dealing with curfews, rations and a virus that needs to be stopped. (Sometimes I think I manifest things when I write novels. Ask me about it someday.) But in all the darkness, however, three love stories unfold that I guarantee will give you hope for a better tomorrow.
This is my favorite series ever. I think you will love the characters. One reviewer said Joanna Wilder was the best heroine she’s met in a long, long time.
I’ll send out a reminder on Thursday, just so you don’t miss the show!
Stay safe and happy reading!
Step 5 | Test-Driving: Try Before You Fly
To begin, watch the presentation below. IMPORTANT: The audio portion of the course will take a few seconds to download, depending upon your connection speed. If you can’t hear anything, try reloading the page to get the audio to start. Also check your volume setting. Here’s a Transcript: Step-5 Transcript
Test-Drive Your Idea
Correction: In the presentation below, the term “cute meet” should be “meet cute.”