The Most Important Sentence You Will Ever Write

One of the many waterfalls on the grounds of Dunvegan Castle, Skye, Scotland. (Copyleft Avery Oslo, 2010)

One of the many waterfalls on the grounds of Dunvegan Castle, Skye, Scotland. (Copyleft Avery Oslo, 2010)

When it comes to selling books, Agent Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown Ltd. has got the right idea– write a one sentence pitch (OSP), and then construct the rest of your queries and marketing around that.

Bransford underscores the importance of the one sentence pitch as “the core of all the summarizing you’re going to do in the future. It’s the heart of your book, whittled down to one sentence. It’s what you build around when crafting longer pitches. And there’s an art to it.”

I’ve found it to be an immensely helpful exercise, not just for learning how to grab attention and be concise, but because it helps you focus on what is important about your work, instead of what you think is important about it.

Allow me to explain. In trying to write my own one-sentence pitch for my latest novel, it occurred to me that my OSP didn’t accurately reflect the story as I imagined it.  Try as I might, I couldn’t condense the essence of my novel in a way that did it justice.

And that’s because I’m a rookie, and I make rookie mistakes. Like many writers,  I had an idea for a novel and I ran with it. But as always, the story told itself and diverted from the path I created for it. It’s a stronger story than the one I originally intended, but my heart hadn’t made the connection yet.  I found that in my first attempt at writing my OSP, I was working with what I had previously intended my story to be, instead of what my story turned out to be.

The OSP was a great way for me to reconcile head and heart, and  to realize that I had to understand the story through its own terms instead of the terms I once tried to impose on it.

And once I had, beautiful phrases jumped out, vying for my attention and begging to be included in what felt like the OSP to end all OSPs.

Moral of the story: Go to Bransford’s blog. Learn how to write an OSP, and create the best OSP out there. You’ll be glad you did.

And then let me know how it went and what you discovered along the way in the comments!

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10 Comments

Filed under agents, books, concise, fiction, marketing, Misc., novels, pitches, pubishing, querying, story, writing, writing exercise

10 responses to “The Most Important Sentence You Will Ever Write

  1. Pingback: Sunday Spotlight (*Special Edition*) « The Black Sheep

  2. Pingback: Sunday Spotlight (*Special Edition*) « The Black Sheep

  3. wizardofwords1

    Interesting idea about the OSP. I’ve actually been doing that for my major writing projects without realizing there was a reason. I was told you’ve got to be able to describe your work in an “elevator pitch” (same idea) because that seems to be the amount of time most people will actually listen to what you’re saying.

    Good luck with it,
    Doreen Pendgracs
    AKA wizardofwords.net

    • Thanks for your comment & well-wishes.
      I guess this is one way in which the writing world simulates an actual workplace. You always need the elevator pitch, the cocktail party pitch, and then the lunchtime pitch when looking for a job, too.

  4. I really like that idea. Thanks for sharing it. I’m a rookie too, but on a steep learning curve. Love all these helpful tips from lovely bloggers.

    • Thanks for leaving a comment to say so! I’m treasuring rookie status for now, because it comes with loads of privileges and freedoms that go away once people look to you for expertise.

      • Oh, yes, you’re right. I didn’t think of the benefits of being a rookie. In that case, I shall retain my rookie status for a good while longer.

  5. It’s definitely great to have, but really hard to write (for me at least)! It’s good to know other people struggle with the same stuff I do so I can let up on myself a little. Good luck with the novel, fellow rookie 🙂

    • You are definitely not alone. While it’s hard to write, it’s at least useful, unlike some of the crazy Sisyphean writing exercises I’ve seen recommended. Thanks for your comment and best of luck!

  6. Pingback: The Inside Story » Blog Archive » Happy Birthday to Me!

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