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#FirstDraft60 Day 23: One-Sentence and One-Paragraph Story Summaries #amwriting #nanoprep

Monday, October 24, 2016

#FirstDraft60 | KayeDacus.comIf you haven’t yet completed the assignments from Days 19 and 20, writing the premise and a basic outline of your story, never fear—today’s project goes hand-in-hand with those!

The One-Sentence and One-Paragraph Story Summaries
The one-sentence summary. The Quick Pitch. The Elevator Pitch. The Slug Line. It doesn’t matter what it’s called, if you’re a writer, you need at least one one-sentence and one one-paragraph summary that you can recite at the drop of a hat (or the drop of an important editor/agent’s name) that clearly conveys the tone, theme, and premise of your story.

Simple, right?

But wait. We haven’t even started writing our first drafts yet. Why are we worried about creating something that we won’t need until months or maybe even years down the road?

Because creating your one-sentence and one-paragraph summaries (pitches) helps give you clarity as to what your story is about, what your main characters’ goals are, and what your story’s tone/theme is or should be. And these will keep you from getting lost when you get into the middle of writing your draft and have no idea where your story goes next.

1. Review Your Premise and Outline First
You’ve been working on your premise and outline for the past couple of days, so everything should be top-of-mind for you. But pull them out anyway and re-read all of your notes as well as your finalized versions of the premise and outline.

Assignment 1: Make a bulleted list of three to five important events that happen in the story. Make another list for each main character that includes goal, motivation, conflict. Make a third list that includes what you think are the main theme(s), “take-away” message (or moral of the story), and tone (humorous, serious, scary, thrilling, suspenseful, etc.).

2. Create Your One-Sentence Summary
If you plan to pursue publication, you need to be able to explain the gist of your story in as few words as possible—whether for those fleeting moments at conferences when you have a sudden face-to-face encounter with your dream agent/editor or to use as part of your marketing materials for selling your novel to readers. Or, frankly, when someone you know asks you what your story is about.

From your lists above, you should have been able to narrow down the main conflict and theme of your story. Now start thinking about those from the viewpoint of each of your main characters. What would each viewpoint character say is the main focus of the story from the character’s point of view?

Assignment 2: Write several one-sentence pitches that summarize your story from each of your main characters’ viewpoints. These should be no more than 25 to 50 words. (And yes, it’s okay if it’s two sentences instead of just one—but try to keep it down to one if possible.)

You may discover you come up with several sentences that you like (and you’ll discover that a thesaurus may be your best friend in this process). Some examples from my previous work:

  • Falling in love with a client could cost this wedding planner her business; learning the true identity of the groom could cost her heart.
  • Executive Chef Major O’Hara has foresworn love, knowing he could never saddle the woman he loves with a family situation like his. But when it seems he’s about to lose Meredith Guidry to another man, he realizes he must concoct a Menu for Romance to win her back.
  • Falling in love with your lawyer isn’t all bad . . . unless he’s the son of the people you’re suing.
  • Under pressure to marry her wastrel cousin from relatives who seek to control her inheritance, Julia Witherington is forced to forge an arrangement to marry Captain William Ransome, the Royal Navy officer she swore she’d never forgive for what he did twelve years ago. Can these two set aside their pride and anger and learn what love and honor really mean?
  • Royal Navy Lieutenant Ned Cochrane is in no position to take a wife, especially his captain’s younger sister. Charlotte Ransome is determined to follow her heart—all the way to Jamaica and her secret fiancé—but her audacious plan will put her in danger of more than just losing her heart.
  • When both Julia and Charlotte are captured by pirates, will William and Ned be able to trust a most unlikely ally and have faith that all their fates are in God’s hands?

Draft of One-Paragraph summaries for A CASE FOR LOVE

My rough draft of One-Paragraph summaries for A CASE FOR LOVE

3. Create Your One-Paragraph Summary
Now that you have (hopefully)several one-sentence summaries of your story, it’s time to expand that to a one-paragraph summary. Go back to your premise and outline and the bulleted lists you made in Assignment 1. While it’s hard to focus on more than one character in a one-sentence summary, one paragraph allows you a little more leeway. Who are the two or three main characters it’s most important for your audience (whether editor/agent or reader) to know about? What is the one main plotline that should be the focus of the summary? This is your chance to experiment with writing back-cover copy.

Assignment 3: Write two or three one-paragraph summaries of approximately 150 to 175 words. If you need help with this, pull your favorite books off the bookshelf and study the back-cover copy.

Examples of the one-paragraph summaries of the one-sentence summary books above:

If you feel so led, please share your favorite one-sentence and/or one paragraph summary that you come up with.

  1. Monday, October 24, 2016 3:33 pm

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carol permalink
    Monday, October 24, 2016 7:12 pm

    Oh, great assignments today. This may take more than the hour I have right now. But I’m working, working, working!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Monday, October 24, 2016 7:19 pm

      I have my final day off (before Thanksgiving) on Thursday with nothing planned but FD60 catch-up. But even still, I foresee a very, very busy weekend of story prep in order to be ready to start writing next week. (A WEEK FROM TOMORROW! How did that happen so fast???)

      I put in nearly six hours yesterday, and I’m still stuck on my heroine’s backstory. It seems to be flowing a little better now, but she’s being very stingy with the personal insights!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carol permalink
        Monday, October 24, 2016 7:25 pm

        She’s a spy. Her trust has been betrayed. You’re going to have to woo her. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Monday, October 24, 2016 7:41 pm

          I did learn that she had her first bout of PSTD/nightmares/sleepwalking when she was five, after her mother died in childbirth. She didn’t see it, but she did hear it—and since she can remember everything she hears…

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Carol permalink
    Thursday, October 27, 2016 5:52 pm

    Finally, here’s my current one sentence summary: When all the real members of the SAR team get sidetracked, thirteen year old Elise knows it’s up to her and her pit bull Grendle to find Blake, who is lost in the woods, possibly injured, running out of insulin, and has sworn to ruin Elise’s life.


    • Shirley Taylor permalink
      Friday, October 28, 2016 3:01 am

      Sounds like a great story! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carol permalink
        Friday, October 28, 2016 5:21 am



  4. Shirley Taylor permalink
    Saturday, October 29, 2016 2:39 am

    So, I’ve got a two one sentence summaries so far and one one paragraph summary but I labored over them for awhile. My almost 13 year old sat down to resign up for the NaNo Young Writers website and had written her own one sentence summary in less than 10 minutes: “JewelleRiver, a dragon of royal blood is unable to fly. She winds up on a perilous journey to the Lost Tribes, where she will find her flight.” #ProudButJealous? lol


  5. Sunday, October 30, 2016 3:57 pm

    1 Sentence:

    Ghost hunter Kendra Buckner has lived in fear of a house since she was a child, and she must conquer that fear – and the ghost – on live television.


    Kendra Buckner appears to be living the American Dream. She’s a twenty-something with an international successful reality ghost hunting television show. Her dreams, though, contain things that go bump in the night and threaten her sanity. An opportunity to broadcast a live ghost hunt increases her fears when it is revealed to be the haunted house of her childhood. Can Kendra conquer her childhood fear on live television, with all the world watching? Or will she become another victim claimed by the Maynard Mansion?


  6. Shirley Taylor permalink
    Wednesday, November 2, 2016 10:41 am

    So, I’ve had a working title for awhile and last night, after I had finished my last 233 words to make my word count I allowed myself to play around a little on NaNo and I ended up coming up with an Assignment #3 paragraph that I actually am satisfied enough with to share! Not sharing my one sentence as I don’t like the ones I’ve come up with enough yet. lol

    Paragraph (ends with my working title, could end up being my actual title):

    As Miss Katrina Dalton begins her fourth season she’s determined to find a safe, suitable husband but when she encounters the man who broke her heart five years ago she realizes she’s just as drawn to him as ever.
    When the Marquess of Thorndyke is asked to help ferret out a thief targeting ton events he reenters society only to discover the woman he’d loved and been duped by five years ago is avidly searching for a husband.
    Determined to save his fellow gentleman from falling into her venal clutches he repeatedly puts himself between her and her would-be suitors. Angry at his inexplicable interference, Katrina confronts the Marquess and when the truth of their past is revealed it begins to change everything.
    Refusing to believe he’s learned the truth too late, the Marquess begins a seductive campaign to secure her love once more. Can Katrina learn to forgive and trust him with her heart once more or will she choose the safe match she came to make? Will she risk everything to be with…Someone Like the Marquess?

    Perhaps not a proper paragraph and more of a back cover blurb but I’m quite pleased with it. lol



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