Friday Fiction - Nikki Young Writes

Summarising Your Story – Friday Fiction

I met a (retired) lady once who happened to have worked in publishing all her life. We chatted over coffee and I told her I was attempting to write a novel.

‘Go on then,’ she said. ‘Tell me what it is all about.’

I froze. Like a rabbit in a headlight. Then I began a series of ‘well it’s about this girl….’ ‘and this boy who can…’ ‘and they erm….’

Basically, I knew what I wanted to say, but I just couldn’t get the words out.

‘Imagine if I was an agent,’ the lady said to me. ‘You have about 10 seconds to impress me and make me want to read your work. If you can’t summarise it, then the agent won’t have much confidence in you or your story.’

She was right. I realised that knowing how to summarise my story in just a few lines was like my Elevator Pitch. Have you heard of that? It is the few seconds’ pitch that you would give to someone in order to sell yourself if they asked the all important question,

‘so what do you do then?’

If what followed was a series of ‘erms’ and ‘well…’ it wouldn’t sound very impressive would it?

It comes as no surprise that I know all the ins and outs of my story, but when it came to writing it down in just a few words, boy was that difficult. You would not believe how long this took me, but I wanted to share it with you and get a feel for what people think. I imagined I was writing the blurb: the all important few words that can make the difference between picking up a book and deciding to read it, to putting it back down and walking away. This is a good exercise, even though I am not at the publishing stage. It helps you realise if your story is solid and if there is a logically flow to the plot and theme when you summarise it. Be critical but kind (please!).

A missing Schoolgirl
A murder
A ghost
One boy and his connection to the dead

Jake wants to help dead girl Aimee find her body and move on, but he only has one week in which to do it.
Sophie wants to find her too. She thinks her sister ran away and is desperate to bring her home, alive.
Together they share a common aim, but only Jake knows the truth.

With his friendship with Sophie deepening, the truth about Aimee becomes more difficult to hide.
Can Jake find Aimee without revealing his secret and will he solve her murder in time?

UPDATE – 30/09/14
Since releasing this post, I took on board the feedback and revised my summary. Here is the newest version:

A missing Schoolgirl
A murder
A ghost
One boy and his connection to the dead

16-year-olds Jake and Sophie share a common aim. Jake wants to help dead girl Aimee find her body and move on. Her sister Sophie thinks she ran away and is desperate to bring her home, alive. Only Jake knows the truth and when his friendship with Sophie deepens, the truth about Aimee becomes more difficult to hide.

Ghosts aren’t supposed to connect with the living. It’s against the rules. But sometimes rules can be bent and for Aimee that means the chance to connect with someone who can help her find her body. The catch is that she only has one week to do it and if she doesn’t succeed, she will be stuck where she is forever.

Can Jake find Aimee without revealing his secret and will he solve her murder in time?

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Nikki Young Writes
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Comments (0)

  1. Mummy Tries 26th September 2014 at 8:29 am

    I like this post a lot, very useful. I’m in the process of writing a short third person synopsis for my book – it’s much harder than it sounds!

  2. mytravelmonkey 26th September 2014 at 8:54 am

    I can imagine how hard it it to summarise a plot that you have explored intrinsically in your mind for ever! I like it, it’s definitely got me interested. What i really want to know is why only one week to discover Aimee?

  3. maddy@writingbubble 26th September 2014 at 9:30 am

    Great post – I know the feeling of struggling to describe what your book is about. I tried recently and it took forever and I almost felt like I was telling the story of the whole book just to give a synopsis. I think I’ll give this process a try! Your synopsis is intriguing and also very sad. I already feel for Jake knowing that Aimee is dead and that Sophie’s hope is going to be crushed. I’d like to know how old they are (ish) though. ‘boy’ means plausibly Jake could be 7 or 17 and the book would have a different feel in either case. Good job pulling me in though – I want to know more!

  4. Sara (@mumturnedmom) 26th September 2014 at 4:07 pm

    This is a really interesting post, I’ve always been pretty rubbish at the elevator pitch! I like this synopsis, and it would definitely make me keep a hold of the book and have a flick through, like Maddy I’d like to know how old they are. For me the fact that he only has a week is intriguing and would be a reason to buy the book to find out why. I certainly want to know more 🙂

  5. sophieblovett 30th September 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I’ve been put on the spot a couple of times recently to come up with an elevator pitch for my novel – this would be a really good exercise for me too! I am intrigued by your blurb, and it definitely sounds like a book I would like to read.

    Just a couple of bits of feedback… Firstly, in your opening lines, I’d cut out ‘a ghost’. I think this is implied in ‘one boy and his connection to the dead’ and by leaving it out you’d also have the advantage of employing the rule of three which I think would be more powerful.

    Also – and this is really nitpicking – I’d maybe go for ‘rules can be broken’ instead of ‘bent’ – or even ‘rules are made to be broken’. I know as writers we want to avoid cliches but actually I think they can be quite useful when words are limited and you want to draw people in quickly!

    Great post – I’ll have to see if I can get my summary written now… x

  6. deskmonkeymummy 30th September 2014 at 8:47 pm

    I have never tried this and now I’m scared I’m going to find an older lady who puts me on the spot.
    The revised one is much better. I was drawn in, but I have one question – why a week? How do Jake and Sophie know each other? Did they know each other before Aimee’s death? All this is probably explained in the book and I’m asking for spoilers, aren’t I?
    I also found your Friday Fiction linky last week and now I’m going to have to join in with some horribly awkward scenes.
    Thank you for linking up to #whatimwriting again, looking forward to reading more about your WIP x

  7. Emily Organ 30th September 2014 at 8:53 pm

    I only recently came across the idea of the elevator pitch and I can totally understand why we all need to prepare on. I found some tips in writing a pitch and then did shorter and shorter versions while trying to keep the meaning! It’s good writing practice in itself.

  8. Funky Wellies 3rd October 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Your summary totally makes me want to read your book. 🙂
    I agree, not easy to find the right words when suddenly asked to describe a story you feel passionate about, your story… xx

  9. Virtually All Sorts (@AllSortsHere) 6th October 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Summarising is most definitely an art form. I think. That said, your revision is great and would make me want to read more! #whatimwriting

  10. Morgan Prince 7th October 2014 at 11:54 am

    Oh my this is really great. I love your updated version. And I am totally going to do this with my novel. It’ll need lots of work but I’d be just the same as you, lots of ‘erm’ and ‘well…’ Thanks for the inspiration. xx #WhatImWriting

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