Category Archives: Pre-Writing

Jump-Start Your Novel Writing Month… Without Cheating by Larry Brooks

Mapping out your novel can help you avoid lulls in production. Check out tips from Larry Brooks on how to plan ahead and give your novel a “jump-start.”

According to the “rules” of National Novel Writing Month – no matter what month you undertake the work – there is nothing that prevents you from planning your novel out in advance.  Doing so – solidifying your concept and premise, and laying out the narrative expositional sequence itself – is perhaps the most useful and functional NaNoWriMo tip you can find.

Continue reading

Writing a Premise

At some point, someone is going to ask you, “What’s your novel about?” If not in those exact words, you’re sure to field the question in some form. Do you have an answer? Sure, your novel is complex, full of characters, intricacies, histories, motivations, breakups, and makeups, but what would you write on the back cover of your published novel? What could you say in under 60 seconds to sell your story?

You need a premise. It’s key to staying on task, reminding yourself what you’re doing all month long, and letting others know what’s got you so focused/frazzled/frenzied.

What is a premise?

A premise is a one or two sentence (25-35 word) introduction to your character, his/her conflict, and the hook. It’s the foundation of your story. It works double time. You can use it to keep you on track, or as an elevator pitch to sell your completed novel.

Two ways to write your premise:

1. A present-tense statement. <— Best for planners

2. A “what-if”question. <— Best for pantsers

Whether you use the first or the second is completely up to you. The first option gives a much clearer guideline to follow while the second raises a question, but offers no answers. How open-ended would you like it to be? How much wiggle room would you like to have as you work on your novel? That will determine the best premise style for you.

What are the benefits of writing a premise?

1. A clear idea of what your novel is about. It forces you to break your idea down to its basic components, and ensures that you have the ever-important element that sets your novel apart from any other – the hook.
2. A guideline to refer to at any time during your novel writing process. As you write, many scenes will come to mind, and you will probably fall in love with most of them. Are they all relevant? Probably not. How will you know which ones are worth using? Your premise will make it painfully (or delightfully) obvious which scenes are necessary and which scenes can hit the road.
3. Takes less time and knowledge of the details than writing a summary. To write a summary, you need to know exactly what happens in your story. For a premise, you only need the bones. No meat necessary.
4. Less strict than a summary, leaving lots of room to move around. If you write your novel based on a summary, you will probably feel locked into some ideas and scenes that are present in the summary. There are specific occurrences that you’ll allude to in a summary. In a premise, again, it’s just the bones. You can dress it up however you want.
5. Having an elevator pitch ready. There’s no faster way to say what your novel is about. This is what agents, publishers, and readers are interested in. What is the purpose of your story?

Here are examples of premises using The Hunger Games:

1. Katniss takes her younger sister’s place as tribute in a fight-to-the-death reality television show. She not only fights her competitors, but herself, to win sponsor support, and stay alive.

2. What if 24 children are forced to leave their families to participate in a fight-to-the-death reality television show, only one coming out alive, to entertain the people of their world?

With a few planning days left before the 30 days of writing begin, it’s a great time to write your premise. Remember, you only need to know three things to do it. They are:
1. Your main character
2. Your character’s conflict.
3. The hook – What makes it different.

If you’re not quite ready to write your own premise, I highly recommend writing premises for your favourite books and movies. This will give you great practice in breaking hundred of pages or 2 hours down to their bare bones. For each premise your write, include the character, conflict, and hook, and stay between 25 and 35 words. Once you’ve done this for four or five books/movies, you should be ready to do it for your JuNoWriMo novel.

~

You might also be interested in:

Be a JuNoWriMo 2014 Featured Author

Be a JuNoWriMo 2014 Featured Author

Pre-JuNoWriMo Checklist

Pre-JuNoWriMo Checklist

Prewriting for JuNoWriMo

Prewriting for JuNoWriMo

Pre-JuNoWriMo Checklist

JuNoWriMo is just around the corner! Wow. April really flew right by us, and May is for all the planning, excitement, and preparation we like. Hopefully, you’re ready and feeling good about getting prepared. Here’s what you should get in place this month:

  • Premise – Who is your main character? What does he/she want? What stands in the way? Boil your entire novel down to one sentence.
  • Milestones – Know the turning points in your story.
  • Get to know your characters – You can search the internet for their faces, role play and take personality quizzes as them, and interview them. Be sure to figure out what they want, what they like and dislike, where they spend most of their time, where they live, how they react to various things, who they like and dislike, and what they look like.
  • Writing space – Choose nice, comfortable places where you are likely to feel inspired and be productive. Now is a good time to stake out those coffee shops, delis, libraries, and bookstores in your neighborhood to see which have the right noise-quiet balance, availability of writing fuel, and comfort.
  • Schedule – Some people have to juggle things around and/or squeeze in writing time here and there, 15 minutes at a time. That’s fine, but if possible, it’s nice to set a time to write every day. Routine is good!
  • Develop a plan for the worst – You may decide you don’t like your novel any more. You may get bogged down at work. You may question your ability to write a novel. You may get off track and end up writing something that’s not quite what you planned. You may not hit the daily goals you set for yourself. What would you do? All of those things can be scary/discouraging when they happen, but they can all be overcome with [cue dun-dun-dunnn] a plan! Make a list of your three worst JuNoWriMo nightmares, and decide how you’d deal with them. They won’t be so scary after that!
  • Research – If there’s anything you’re not sure of, look into it. If some parts of your novel absolutely must be factual, do the work now. Research can be quite the time-suck, especially when you’re just looking for a way to procrastinate. Protect your writing time. Keep June research-free by getting the facts in May.
  • Writing tools – Computer, netbook, Alphasmart, notebooks, binders, pens, pencils… Make sure they’re there and ready with lots of space/ink/storage for your word avalanche.
  • Support system – You need people in your corner! Tell people what you’re doing, but only the people who will encourage you and be positive about the challenge you’ve chosen to take on.
  • Meal planning – We highly recommend cooking lots of freezable meals or cutting deals with spouses. You probably won’t have much time for meal preparations, and when you have some, you’ll want to spend it writing, or in the forums.

Well, that about covers it! If you manage to get those things all sorted this month, you’ll be well on your way to a successful JuNoWriMo season. Be sure to look out for more blog posts which will help you out with accomplish some of the tasks mentioned here.

On Scene Lists: What Your Story Needs

***This post is one of several in our prewriting series. To read the first post, click here.***

Only a few days left until June! Are you ready? Here’s Aaron Pogue’s last post in the prewriting series. Complete all the steps and you’ll be set to have a great JuNoWriMo writing experience. Good luck!

Aaron Pogue

~

We’ve been talking about long synopses and scene lists this week. Yesterday I went into some detail on what scene lists are for.

Today I want to tell you how to write one. It shouldn’t be hard, but it’s definitely going to take some time and thought. So let’s get started!

Meat on the Bones

By this point in your prewriting process, you have everything you need to make a story. You’ve got a beginning and an end. You’ve got characters, you’ve got conflict, you’ve got an overview of the plot. Making the novel requires you to flesh out that skeleton, though. Continue reading

On Scene Lists: Building a Novel

***This post is one of several in our prewriting series. To read the first post, click here.***

Hopefully you’ve been making great progress on your prewriting and are almost all ready for June. If you’ve been following the steps in this series by Aaron Pogue, you will go into JuNoWriMo prepared. It’s the best way to start!

Today Aaron talks about writing a long synopsis, the biggest weapon in your prewriting arsenal.

Aaron Pogue

~

This week, your big JuNoWriMo prewriting assignment is to develop a long synopsis, or scene list.  Here is a brief description of a scene list:

A scene list is primarily useful as a prewriting or editing tool. It forces you to map out the actual structure of your story, down to the very building blocks, and then gives you an easy place to spot errors or weak points, to tinker and rearrange.

To make a scene list, you start at the very beginning of your story, and write one to two paragraphs describing what happens in every scene. When you’re finished, you’ll have your entire plot down on paper — every twist and every turn — without all that messy set design, characterization, and description.

That’s certainly how we’re using it this week. Today I want to go into a little more detail than those two short paragraphs give. Continue reading