Try to picture yourself standing in an elevator next to your favorite movie director. You know the one, the dude who could take your pitch for a screenplay and turn it into the movie of the year, adored by critics and box office alike. There is exactly two minutes in between you and the ding of the elevator as the doors part and your opportunity walks out the door. Do you know what you are going to say?
Would you prattle on about the blue sky outside, complain about the rising cost of gas, or would you wisely capitalize on those few fleeting seconds life suddenly saw fit to hand you and then use them to sing your song and dance, convincing the director that you are the right person to hand him his next project?
Of course the odds of actually finding yourself in an elevator standing beside your favorite director are slim to none. But that isn't what really matters. Whatever dream you're holding, it is best to enter each day prepared to render it to your new reality. If you are writing a novel in hopes that you will one day see it in print, you should be able to sum up the book's synopsis in 3 minutes or less.
This is called an elevator pitch.
How does one go about drafting an elevator pitch? How do you condense the dozens of story threads to such a degree that they can be verbally delivered in a lighting rat-a-tat-tat without losing any of their magic?
Remove your author's arrow from the quiver and aim for the bulls-eye. Pare your story down until you are at the dead center of what truly matters. Even War and Peace a summary printed on the back. The job of the elevator pitch is to distill the story elements of your narrative, while casting the essentials into the spotlight.
Committing your elevator pitch to writing will help you to understand your story better, and understanding your story will allow you to write the best version of the narrative possible. Most authors would agree, unfocused writing can often pave the road to an incomplete or unsatisfying novel. If the chapters don't fall like dominos, each one naturally in front of the next, the ending will likely find a writer in struggle.
Few writers are willing to wrestle through to the ending of an unclear narrative. There are even fewer willing readers.
Focus on the core of your book by finding the single thread that can be pulled to unravel it all or sew it together. Yes, the best stories have several elements all singing at the same time and in a similar key, but there is always something intrinsic in the tale that binds everything else together. One topic, idea or element that will clearly supersede all others.
Understanding that thread might be all the tinder you need to keep the creative fire of your novel burning hot. If you find yourself stuck, or perhaps proceeding through your manuscript far slower than you would like - STOP!
Pick up a pen and piece of paper and try to write an elevator pitch. You never know when you might find yourself on the way to the 22nd floor with an editor from Houghton Miflin.