Geekdom: My Love of the “One-Page”

I know, I know, we all hate it. A one-page query. (And what does that even mean in an email?) A one-page synopsis. (Killer!)

And yet…

One-pages have been around for a while. Remember, just out of college, trying to figure out how to fill that one-page resume they wanted? And one-page cover letters, where you tried to make yourself sound better than the resume did? And let’s not even forget making the typo in the last sentence, the big one that the white-out made such a mess of you knew you had to retype the whole thing.

This week, I’ve been working on conference proposals. Nobody has said a thing about one-page, but you know…it just seems about right. I’m coming close every time, and it seems wrong to make conference organizers turn a page just to read a last sentence or two.  Besides, here’s the thing: I really like the rightness of a single page you can hand over to someone, or send off in an email–that one-page perfectness that says it all.

Yes, I know. Geeky. Also fun.

My first job out of college was closed-captioning for television. I have no idea if any of this was scientifically tested or proven, but the premise behind our jobs was that we had to hit a reading rate with our captions–a certain number of words would show up on the screen per minute. And they had to be synched up, in terms of timing, with the speed of the spoken dialogue. Which meant editing.

Cutting  a word here and there, while keeping the humor (or what passed for it) of a joke was a blast. A challenge, yes, but a fun one. Honestly, it was the one thing that made it possible to bear sitting in a freezing cold computer booth, at three in the morning, on a Hollywood studio lot from which anyone exciting had gone home hours before. One more word…one more word. I’ll just say it here…I was good.

That job took me into management (for the brief time it took me to learn that was not my world), got me motivated to move out of Los Angeles to the Bay Area, sent me to Great Britain for a wonderful five weeks (there went that pension), and taught me to trim. It also taught me how many extra words we do use, and the beauty of tight writing that has dispensed with those extras.

I’m not captioning anymore. I am, however, getting ready to send out a few proposals. And they will all, I can tell you, be a “one-page.” Just because. 🙂


  1. Elaine Maikovska says:

    Just wanted to see who our December presenter for Redwood Writers meeting is. I just posted your info on our website with a link to your blog. I like what you have written here. Very interesting-especially about the wordiness of most of us. See you in December. Looking forward to it.


    • beckylevine says:

      Elaine, thanks for stopping by! I’m plenty wordy, especially in early drafts. Good for me that I do like trimming. 🙂

      Looking forward to the meeting, too.


  2. lauradroege says:

    I recently finished the 4th (or so) draft of my two (double-spaced) page synopsis. The first one was too confusing. The second was awkward. The third (as an agent said) made the book sound too depressing. I only had a certain number of lines to retell a serious, complicated story, and hitting the key points meant leaving out so many of the more upbeat moments that kept the book from being a complete downer. Hence draft number four, which seems to be much better!

    To make my wordy comment less wordy, I totally identify with your need to be less wordy. 🙂


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