Tag Archives: prewriting

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.

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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.

JuNoWriMo Featured Author: Lisa Voisin

Meet some of your fellow JuNo WriMos in our Featured Author series each Monday and Wednesday during June.

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Lisa Voisin

Lisa Voisin

My name is Lisa Voisin and I’m a young adult fiction author. Last year was my first JuNoWriMo, and I’m happy to say I completed it, by writing the first 50,000 words of a YA paranormal romance called The Warrior (a sequel to my debut novel, The Watcher, which was published by Inkspell Publishing in March). I finished the rest of the first draft of The Warrior back in December and I’ve been revising it ever since.

As far as writing goes, I’m a bit of a pantser. I tend to write a book from start to finish and see what I’ve got once I’m done the first draft. This process is fun and freewheeling, but it relies very heavily on edits and revisions to make the novel readable.

For JuNoWriMo this year, I’m going to try something completely different: planning my novel first. Yes! I’m hoping to be a recovering pantser and learn to plot first! The idea actually makes me really nervous and reminds me of things like taxes or housecleaning. I’m afraid if I know everything that’s going to happen, I’ll lose interest.

As far as this year’s JuNoWriMo goes, what I’ve got so far is some character ideas and a premise. I’m thinking it will be a YA fantasy. Other than that, I’m keeping pretty quiet about it, just in case I change my mind, fly by the seat of my pants, and write something completely different!

If you know of any great planning/plotting tips, or links to them, please let me know in the comments below! Or, if you’re a pantser (or recovering pantser) too, I’d love to hear from you. Which process works best for you?

About Lisa:

A Canadian-born author, Lisa Voisin spent her childhood daydreaming and making up stories, but it was her love of reading and writing in her teens that drew her to Young Adult fiction.

A self-proclaimed coffee lover, Lisa can usually be found writing in a local café. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her meditating or hiking in the mountains to counteract the side effects of drinking too much caffeine!

Though she’s lived in several cities across Canada, she currently lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her fiancé and their two cats.

Find her: Twitter | Facebook | Website | Blog

About the Watcher

The_Watcher_Final_Cover_60

Millennia ago, he fell from heaven for her.

Can he face her without falling again?

Fascinated with ancient civilizations, seventeen-year-old Mia Crawford dreams of becoming an archaeologist. She also dreams of wings—soft and silent like snow—and somebody trying to steal them.

When a horrible creature appears out of thin air and attacks her, she knows Michael Fontaine is involved, though he claims to know nothing about it. Secretive and aloof, Michael evokes feelings in Mia that she doesn’t understand. Images of another time and place haunt her. She recognizes them—but not from any textbook.

In search of the truth, Mia discovers a past life of forbidden love, jealousy and revenge that tore an angel from Heaven and sent her to an early grave. Now that her soul has returned, does she have a chance at loving that angel again? Or will an age-old nemesis destroy them both?

Ancient history is only the beginning.

Check out The Watcher Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/ukoCDlW05-Y

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Enjoying JuNoWriMo? Help us make it bigger and better for next year! Donate, and you’ll receive personal fanfare from our Facebook page.

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Pinterest for Writers

 

Art by Norvz Austria

Pinterest.

It’s the latest craze on the internet. It can be extremely addictive. Being a visually-oriented person (maybe more than most), I was immediately drawn to join the masses and start creating my own pin boards. Fortunately, unlike many people, I’ve been able to [mostly] keep a rein on myself and pretty strictly regulate my time spent on the site. But it wasn’t until lately that I realized just how valuable a tool Pinterest could be for a writer.
Continue reading

Who’s Doing #NaNoWriMo? We Are!

Howdy gang! I hope you’ve had a great summer and are enjoying the new season. Fall came rushing in on me and I can hardly believe next month is November!

Join Us During November

Anna and I are doing #NaNoWriMo next month and we hope you are, too! If you aren’t signed up yet, go to http://nanowrimo.org and do it now.

We had a heck of a lot of fun last June doing word sprints with you guys. Because of that, we’re bringing it all back during November to help support your NaNoWriMo experience. Follow @junowrimo on Twitter to join in. I’m excited about seeing all my JuNo buddies again.

Remember our word count spreadsheet from June? How cool was it to see  everyone’s daily counts? Did you have as much fun racing with your fellow WriMos as I did? I have good news. We’re bringing it back for NaNoWrimo.

We will have a post letting you know when the new spreadsheet is ready, so stay tuned. We had over a hundred people input their names this June. Let’s see if we can get even more next month. Make sure you’ve created a JuNoWriMo account which will grant you access to the spreadsheet.

The best part about this site is the accountability. NaNoWriMo is a big place and it can be hard to get to know people, but here you’ll find a smaller and tighter community. If you’re new, then welcome aboard! We’re happy to have you with us.

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

Are you prepped and ready for what it’s going to take to write a novel in thirty days? October is prewriting month and I encourage you to take advantage of it. Starting NaNoWriMo without a plan isn’t just difficult—it’s setting yourself up for failure. Get the bones of your novel sketched out ahead of time so that when the clock turns midnight on October 31st, you’re armed and ready.

What is prewriting and exactly how do you do it? Aaron Pogue has a great walkthrough of how to get ready to write a novel. This post is the first in the prewriting series. Follow his advice and you’ll be ready for November.

More Tips and Free Stuff

One final thing. I’ve saved the best for last. There’s a great new ebook out there called @WriMo: A 30-day Survival Guide for Writers by Kevin S. Kaiser. I highly recommend it for everyone doing NaNoWriMo. This book is full of motivation to inspire your writing journey. It’s especially useful for making you stick with it in those times you really don’t want to write. I read it and loved it. Even better, all the proceeds of the book are donated to NaNoWriMo which means that buying this book is akin to sending them a donation check.

I’m so excited about this book that I’m going to give away a free copy next week! Come back on Monday for a chance to win!

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