Summing Up SAGE

So the good folks at Hydra Publications bought SAGE as a trilogy. I’ve signed the contract, done the edits, and Book 1 is in the pipes for publication.

Now comes the hard part. Now I have to summarize it.

I managed a synopsis of 2-3 pages, but now I need to write one of those descriptions that sell a book online. As Kris Bock says, the thing that’s missing in most of those descriptions is the flavor of the book.

When Elsie, the pampered daughter of a minor official, is chosen as the ruler’s bride, her mother tells her what she’s always suspected: Elsie is a foundling. What Elsie didn’t know is that she was one of many children marked for death–marked by the man she’s been called to marry, the man suspected of murdering his first wife, who was the true ruler of Layounna. Elsie’s daring escape into the wilderness sets off a series of interlocking events that lead directly to the man who demands the throne as the illegitimate son of the dead ruler.


The land of Layounna is in disorder. Rumors are growing that the regent murdered his wife, the true ruler, with the help of his mother and sister. The young man, Kinnan, who claims to be the illegitimate true heir, has been driven into exile, but the people expect him to return. The girl the regent chooses for his second wife vanishes from the castle, and none of his mother’s arts can find her. And they say a unicorn has been sighted.


The House of Onagros ruled Layounna for generations. Then the House of Sarpa, led by the Tarkastrian adept Oliva, used marriage, murder, and fear to usurp the throne. But, when Landry of Sarpa decides to legitimate his regency by marrying and producing heirs, his chosen bride vanishes with the help of a young apprentice scribe. Bride and apprentice are separated in the northern woods, and the apprentice, in searching for her, stumbles like a spark into tinder when he tells her story to the man who just might be the true heir to the House of Onagros.

I also need a logline. Anne R. Allen (no relation) has a great post on all this stuff at her blog. My buddy Monti Sikes has a post on loglines in which she tries to sum up her stories in 25 words or fewer.

How’s this:

Yes, yes. Unrightful ruler. Lost heir. Runaway bride. But plots go astray when the Four Divine Animals get involved: Unicorn, Phoenix, Dragon, and … Tortoise?

Would any of that make you give the book a second’s glance? Jane, would those make you blip past it, even if it were free? Help?

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Try to sum up the flavor and content of a book you know well in 25 words or fewer.


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I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Summing Up SAGE

  1. Joanna Foreman

    August 27, 2012 at 11:00am

    Your first synopsis drew me in immediately. The second was interesting, the third one, eh not so much for me. Your logline “yes, yes, Unrightful ruler . . . ” grabbed me and made me smile. I love that logline. Hope this helps. Unlike some of our writer’s group, I’ve never read any of Sage, so I’m in great anticipation.

    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 27, 2012 at 11:18am

      Thanks, Joanna! That helps a whole lot. This book has so many traditional fantasy tropes, but treats them so differently, it’s really hard to communicate. Or I might just be too close to it. :/ Your feedback is invaluable, as always!

    • Author
  2. Jane

    August 28, 2012 at 12:37am

    Hi. Absolutely number 2. I especially like the line about the unicorn sighting. #3 turned me off instantly. Sounding like Game of Thrones. OK. I guess, but it SO isn’t. (I didn’t like Game of Thrones, either.) Let’s see, telling what the plot lines are isn’t the same as capturing that special something. I never did get the right synopsis for my giant vampire novel.

    Anyway, the second synopsis has all sorts of tone just dripping from it. The use of the word “disorder” is perfect. Five sentences, but each is comprehensive to the max. You establish so many points of view in very few words. Nice. It would be okay to make it a little longer, but gently. I’d hate to lose the precision of what you’ve already written.

    I like the logline. More later. My eyes are sticking together.

    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 28, 2012 at 8:40am

      Thanks for being so clear about what you like, Jane. It really helps. 🙂

  3. Jazz Zangeres

    August 28, 2012 at 2:31am

    I’d vote for the first one – but that last line of your 2nd synopsis is great and makes curious. So perhaps you can combine those?

  4. Rana DiOrio

    August 29, 2012 at 3:04pm

    I recently attended the scbwi Annual Conference and sat in on Lissa Price’s (author of internationally bestselling debut novel, Starters) session about log lines. As a former screen writer, she can nail these. She asked, “What’s this book about?” And offered, “Less is more. Pitch the book in stages. One sentence, then a backup sentence, then a paragraph. you want to engage the audience in a conversation.” Great post. Good luck, Marian!

    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 29, 2012 at 4:03pm

      Thanks, Rana — great advice! I’ll make note of that, for sure. 🙂

    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 29, 2012 at 4:04pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Monti, especially the specific bit that hooked you.

  5. Helen Ginger

    August 29, 2012 at 7:27pm

    The logline didn’t draw me in. I had no visual or idea of the story. Sorry.

    I liked the third synopsis the best.

    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 29, 2012 at 9:37pm

      Thanks, Helen. I’m taking notes, you know. 🙂 No need to be sorry — it’s all helpful!

  6. Morgan Mandel

    August 29, 2012 at 9:09pm

    I like the one that starts with yes, yes. Short and to the point!

    Morgan Mandel

    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 29, 2012 at 9:38pm

      Thank you, Morgan! I’m starting to see a pattern here: no consensus. lol!

  7. Maryann Miller

    August 29, 2012 at 10:25pm

    I like the second short synopsis. Nice short, declarative sentences that impart a sense of what the story is about, as well as a bit of urgency.

    The logline, not so much. I wish I could come up with some good suggestion for you, but this story appears to have so many elements, it is hard to narrow a summary of it to 25 words.

    When I first started writing screenplays, an instructor told us that a logline is like the write-up you see in TV Guide for a show. It should identify the central character, name the challenge and contain some kind of “punch” that will attract an audience. Not so easy to do. I hate having to write a synopsis or a logline as much as I hate a root canal.

    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 30, 2012 at 10:05am

      Maryann, I hate doing the synopsis and logline, too. It’s a real talent. Thanks for your help!

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