Tuesday, April 19, 2011
P IS FOR PREMISE
When we listen to other authors explain their manuscripts to us, it usually sounds something like this:
Well, I heard of a creature that I thought was fascinating so I began to write a story to go with that creature and four hundred pages later, I had a novel. I had no idea how big it would be! or I awoke from an erotic dream where two characters are talking, and I started writing that day. I never wanted to be a writer; it just happened.
Helpful, right? If we believe that great novels are born this way all the time, it would appear that the thousands of writers who are trying to get published are working too hard. Those novels and authors' journeys are the EXCEPTION. It's great that it worked out that way for them, but we have to be more realistic and practical.
But there is a lesson we can each learn from their stories of high-energy writing and publishing gold. The lesson is that each of those novels began with a KILLER PREMISE, an idea. One idea.
I know it sounds like magic (a la JK ROWLING developing the Harry Potter storyline while sitting on a train with no pen or paper), but it really isn't. Premises can come to you anywhere, anytime. The trick is not to let the idea die on the page without the proper planning. Rowling proudly states that it took her five years to get the planning and writing correct. She displays the mounds of notes, research, and revised manuscripts for that first Harry Potter novel. That is the epitome of taking a fantastic premise and turning it into a solid storyline.
Don't wait until you're at the query letter stage to figure out your plot is weak. Begin with your premise and then plot!
So here's the challenge question: How do you know when you have a good premise or a bad one?