Die Hard - Ellis

Still in the plotting/scheming/maniacal laughing stages of The Jimmy Project, I’ve been knee deep in story structure, character motivations and all kinds of other buzzwords that writers use to make themselves sound super smart and sometimes write words good. For my last novel, I sort of used a process called discovery writing, or if you’re feeling nasty, pantsing — both just fancy terms that mean making this crap up as you go.

For TJP, I’m trying to do things a bit differently, which basically means doing any kind of planning at all. Some months back, I shared something called the Snowflake Method with you guys, and it’s done wonders for how I perceive the story before getting started. But there’s one step in particular that has helped more than anything else I could have done to get ready: writing your novel in 5 sentences.

When you write your novel in 5 sentences, you’re being forced to essentially create a pitch for it, well before you’ve even written it. The thing that makes a pitch so valuable is that it solidifies your stakes, your conflict, all the meat that makes a book so darn tasty, and condenses it. So yeah, creating that pitch before you start writing helps ground your novel like you wouldn’t believe.

Here’s my five sentence breakdown of The Jimmy Project. This hasn’t been wordsmithed at all since I’m using it in my project documents and not querying or pitching anybody with it, but I think it does a lot of good work in setting up what TJP is about, what the stakes are, and gives me a fantastic anchor to return back to as I get lost in the writing.

Jimmy is America’s hero, an emotionless super-powered teen raised by the government to protect them from their enemies and secure their interests around the world. When Jimmy starts experiencing intense emotion for the first time after a routine mission, his search for the cause leads him to discover another person just like him. Urged by the stranger to investigate his own past, Jimmy’s thirst for answers leads him to the truth — not only do his powers cause permanent psychological damage to innocent bystanders, he’s also not even from this planet. Just as Jimmy resolves to leave his life behind for good, the stranger returns to dish out their own revenge on the U.S. government and the people of Earth. Jimmy is faced with the choice of siding with a stranger hell bent on destruction and revenge or with the people that manipulated him and sought to control him… and in the process, discovers his own path in life.

No matter what rabbit hole I venture down when I’m plotting or even word dumping in my rough draft, this, Hans — bubby — is my white knight. For any of you starting projects any time soon, I highly recommend breaking a story down into a 5 sentence pre-pitch before you’ve written a single word. You might find that the early effort bleeds into all of your pages in the best way possible.

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