McCaffrey said, "If you can't summarize your story in 20 words or less you don't know it."

No one likes this this exercise. It was least popular when I introduced it in the Nanowrimo forums. Some people tried to beef it up to more words, or just one sentence in other threads, but that’s cheating according to Anne McCaffrey (author of the Pern series), so let’s see if you know your story.

Post yours.

1. DO NOT POST LINKS–it’s against the rules of Improve Your Writing.

  1. Please do not post titles. If you post a title, that’s a fail.

  2. You can comment on others to take a guess at their genre or just give them a like to vote for their book.

  3. It will be considered a FAIL if you explain beyond the 20 words other parts of the plot, etc. Do not explain it in subsequent posts.

  4. If you are personally interested in reading the story posted, PM the person in question.

So, in total, an exercise in the slush pile and also a way to figure out the bare bones of your book. Can you pass McCaffrey’s challenge?


IIRC McCaffrey said you need a few ingredients to make it “good”.

  • Character (preferably name and who they are),
  • main conflict
  • thing that makes your story unique compared to other stories of its ilk
  • clear genre

Note: an elevator pitch is usually even shorter… you’re lucky to even get 10 words. It’s the time between you in the elevator and the next floor. The best max at 6 words. 20 seconds for the pitch. After that, you have the conversation. “What are you writing?” at a convention should have a 20 second pitch to hook the person, and then the rest of it lined up and memorized.

The boy and the girl met each other through flower.

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Julie struggles to find her identity as a mother while feeling pressured to maintain a perfect marriage.

I hope I understood the point of the exercise :slight_smile:


A werelion mercenary struggles to muster up the courage to face his past.


A reincarnated wizard is forced to regain his memories and break the ancient curse he cast.


No Na Ri, Ms. Blur Assistant Props Manager, struggles to show up on the screen of work and love.


Alyssa moves to a new town to forget the scars of her past, but ends up with more trouble.


Luke proves that without love the Jedi will fail and the galaxy will be enslaved by hatred.


In the distant future, a disadvantaged man is exploited by unethical government agents.But he doesn’t give up.


Cursed to an afterlife in 80s clothes, a fashionista must solve two murders to save her best friend.


Negotiating memories from another time, Frisk seeks the truth behind her potentially murderous past while an old enemy manipulates them for herself.

Definitely not the best description, but it’s the bare bones of the main plotline.

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An elite family falls and villains take the stage in a fictional England.


Searching for a powerful relic, a blue cat anthro confronts her enemy and her race’s secret is unveiled.


A Sorcerer boy held back in school befriends a non-human and they must evade police to find their parents.

A girl is transported to Underland and must save the residents from Madness. Easier said than done.

Interesting exercise for sure. But it also tells me that I still don’t know some of the stories well enough because I struggled summing it in 20 words or less. Although, one I can say I struggled because I haven’t looked at it in a while.

I think I was only supposed to do one, but I wanted to just try out the other books to see if I could do it with them.


Sounds interesting!

Since I’ve just been during some story research and looking at The Wizard of Oz, I couldn’t help but think of the Cowardly Lion :wink:


Dan after escaping death / awaking the ability to travel the Multiverse carrying that newfound knowledge he must protect those closest to him from impending danger.

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A police officer gets kidnapped because he knows too much and accidentally falls in love with his co-worker.


That honestly sounds interesting. Which means you did a really good job summarizing it :wink:

What’s the story’s link?

A girl travels through magical realms in search of Khogassek, battling monsters, dark magic and betrayal along the way.


Damn, this was a hard exercise, but here goes-

Tahro lives in a storybook’s world and changes its plot. He must fix the butterfly effect before it destroys everything.


Good summary. Sounds like a good read :grinning: