Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Finding a Rocking Premise

One thing I found so interesting with our contest is reading through the entries and coming across some which made me say, “Hmm… that sounds like something I’d like to read” or “I’ve never read a book like that before” or “I wonder how the author wrote this story”.

The premise of a novel is what the story is about and it should peek a reader’s interest, lure them in to read the story. Sure, good writing and a strong voice are the anchor of the story, but it’s the premise that catches an agent’s or editor’s eye and ultimately is blurbed on the back of a cover to pull the reader to buy the book.

So the question I’ve been mulling over is: How does a writer find a great premise?

Here is a process that I’ve come up with:

1. Take time to daydream- This is such an important part of a book’s development! Have a notebook handy and jot down notes. Imagine your character’s world and how events could play out.

2. Brainstorm- Don’t limit yourself to one idea. Come up with as many ideas as you can. Write them all into paragraph summaries.

3. Research- Know your market! Check out your bookstore or your own bookshelf and list all the published titles that are out there that are comparable to your book. Is the market glutted with books similar to your ideas? (This is where blogging and reading can help you keep abreast in what’s being published and what isn’t. And why.)

4. Get help- This is where a great critique group or writing friend can be invaluable. Once you have your list of ideas, submit it to your close writing friends. Ask them what they think. What works and what doesn’t. Do they have any ideas that you hadn’t thought of? Don’t be afraid to collaborate.

5. Choose- You’ve got your feedback and you’ve done your research and hopefully you’ve come up with 1 amazing idea for a story.

Don’t forget though that even if you think your idea is amazing and brilliant, everyone has personal tastes. What one person loves may be something you hate and would never read. Make sure that your idea is something that you love and are passionate about. Because hopefully it will make it onto the bookshelves and be there for a very, very long time!



  1. For me, it seems like the premise of a story comes a little easier than the "essence." An idea grips me, I run with it, then I need to capture the essence to write my query letter. Semantics maybe, but it's where I get stuck :-)

  2. Christy, I don't think I spend enough time daydreaming and brainstorming, I try to jump into it too quickly and that can lead to a weak story.

    Kenda, I know what you mean about "the essence". It's so challenging to express a deeper layer than just the story on the surface, or at least, to hint at it.

  3. I have a much easier time coming up with neat settings and concepts. I get a lot of inspiration from non-fiction. But it takes forever to match the right characters and motivations with the settings and concepts. You're right, it takes brainstorming practice and lots of daydreaming.


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