#ROW80 / Books I've Read / The Process

Focus, loglines and #ROW80 check-in

shoes and shopping bags

So you wanna write a book. You gotta get your butt in the chair and focus. Focus. Focus. Focus.

That’s what they say.

Tonight as I sat there staring at my blinking cursor, I decided the whole writing through the blank wasn’t working. I needed to focus. By eating chocolate ice cream and watching Confessions of a Shopaholic on TBS.

The movie was about half over by the time my channel surfing brought me to it. Yes, in our office/guest room the TV is so old school there’s no guide to peruse, I had to flip through the old-fashioned way. God. When did channel surfing become old-fashioned? (I will not lament my age, I will not lament my age…)

Anyway, I’m eating chocolate ice cream and watching Isla Fisher do things like Google “good angles for store credit card APR” and thinking how she was the worst possible person to be writing financial advice. Duh. Enter my focus.

Apparently the movie received terrible reviews. I’m not here to judge.  I actually haven’t read the book the movie is based on, but it is highly praised on Amazon. All of that aside, what did strike me about the movie–it is a shining example of a point made by Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, my most recent read on the craft of writing. It just clicked. Isla Fischer being the worst person for that job is the whole point. It’s the irony. I can imagine what the movie’s logline must have said, “A shopaholic with credit problems gets a job writing an advice column for a financial magazine.” Boom! Now you know exactly what the movie and book are about.

It made me wonder if my own logline has enough of that ironic punch. And as I watched Isla buy dress after ridiculous dress (while trying to outrun an overzealous debt collector) I chewed on the thought. I don’t think it does. My problem is while I thought I had my logline worked out, I don’t think it accurately covers the irony. It is more of a one sentence plot description “A teenage girl does this” sort of thing. Which is a big problem. The irony IS the story. It’s the journey. It’s how the coming of age happens. And not having the right one is probably also why I don’t have a title for this baby. Why I’m having trouble with my focus (even with an outline to guide me).

I do think my story has the basic elements there but I need to work on how to accurately convey that in one sentence. I will also have some tweaking to do to get the ironic twist just right.  And then when I’m sitting there wondering what my main character will do next, I’ll look to the logline. For instance, when Isla is faced with the choice of keeping a dress she wants for work or keeping the bridesmaid dress she needs for her BFF’s wedding, we know she SHOULD keep the bridesmaid dress. It’s what any decent person with a conscience would do. So that means, of course, that Isla has to buy the expensive work dress. Because she is a shopaholic. That’s how fiction works.

This is also giving me the nagging sensation that maybe my outline isn’t right. Do I go back and fix it now (20K in…the point where every writer I know has an existential crisis about their WIP)? Or do I handle this in revision? I think in revisions, with a renewed focus from a proper logline going forward.

Phew. Who said chocolate ice cream and TV rot your brain? I’ve just had a big dose of delicious focus.

______________________________________________

This seems like a good spot to tack-on my Sunday check-in for #ROW80.

Goals:

  • 750 words/day–Fail. I’m two days behind. I can try to catch up on those 1500 words today. Or spread them out over the course of this week. Probably a combination of both. Either way, I need to catch up.
  • Blog three times per week–Success. Woot!
  • Title–Did you read all that up there ^? No title yet.

So, a little success, a little failure. That’s life I suppose. Now that I’ve had my chocolate covered focus session, let’s see if I can get back on track.

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13 thoughts on “Focus, loglines and #ROW80 check-in

  1. I’ve been having such a hard time with my logline – and I’ve already written (and rr-written, and re-written again) the book! So I totally feel you there 🙂

    Good luck catching up on your goals, and finding a title!

  2. Oh man, I love how vegging out with a silly movie and some snacks can lead to inspiration and focus. Also, is it true that 20k is the point where writers face existential crisis? If so, I seem to be right on track, as my primary WIP is hovering around 21k, and seems unlikely to budge until I work out some issues with character development and whatnot. Meh. Trying to convince myself that moving forward, and keeping a running list of the things I’d like to edit once I’m done, is the best course of action.

    Good luck on catching up! I’m sure you’ll do fine.

    • Thank you! And from what I’ve heard from more than a few writers is that 20Kish is the moment of doubt. I don’t know why, but it seems universal. The key is to push through anyway, I think, and not try to redo the whole thing until after the first draft is complete.

  3. Erin, we are yet again at the same place! I knew I was having problems with the “what is it” but I thought I had enough of everything else to just go ahead and write and figure it out. And I was wrong lol. I just finished reading Save the Cat also – and I loved it! I’ve been mulling over irony for a few hours now!

    I wish you the best this week while you work that out as well!!

    • Sounds like I’m not the only one working out logline issues. They’re pesky things. They seem like they should be simple, but to convey the gist of a whole MS in just one line is tough!

  4. *slaps forehead* I know exactly how that feels. I’ve gotten so many hours in just sitting at my computer and staring at the screen. It has gotten to a point where the flashing line gets on my nerves. Yeah, sometimes I just end up closing Word and surfing the internet.

    Stumble Upon has become my downfall.

    It’s not a bad thing. Look at you, some nice distractions really got you thinking. Kudos! Keep it up!

    • Glad to know I’m not alone w/ the blinking line. I’ve heard a lot about Stumble Upon. My sister really likes that site. I haven’t let myself go there yet, LOL. I’m sure it’s addicting.

  5. logline? old lady is confused should I have one? what is it? had I better read the cat book and will I find the logline there tied with ribbon? serioiusly is it a one sentence summing up something like that? if it is I join you no good at that – also does it have to be ironic?

    well done on inspiration best of luck for this week

    • Thanks, Alberta. Well, Save the Cat is quite a good book and an easy read. It’s written for Screenwriting but is easily adaptable for novels. The logline is basically a one sentence answer to the question, “What is your book about?” or “What is it?” If someone in a coffee shop asked you what your book was about, could you say it in one sentence and hook them? The irony is the story, really. It tells why the character doing what you say he is doing will make a good book. In the example above, if a shopaholic gets a job writing for a fashion magazine, there’s not much story there. But a financial magazine? You can imagine the shenanigans that might ensue. Does that make sense? I don’t think it’s a requirement but the book does say you should have it (and a title) before you ever start writing (or even plotting). I don’t think everyone does it that way, but I can see why it’s recommended. Also it’s probably a helpful tool when you need to start writing pitches :).

  6. I’m starting edits on my middle grade novel, and Save the Cat is making me rethink everything too! I need to clean up the plot to have a better rhythm and stay true to the logline. And my title may change as well.

    Better to know this stuff now than after it’s published and panned, right? Best wishes on finding the perfect title!

    • Exactly. Better to figure it all out now. I think I’ve got the title and logline worked out now, but I’m letting it stew a bit to see if I can’t make it better. I’ve also started on Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. So far it’s pretty good (though he gets a little winded w/ the analogies, IMO, but they make sense).

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