Monday, September 30, 2013

In Search of the Great Premise

How did you come up with the premise for your WIP? If you're anything like me, coming up with an idea is not a problem -- you probably come up with them all the time.  But how do you choose the one that will stick? It takes a lot of time and commitment to complete a novel, so you have to pick the project that will drive you to finish, the one that's you're so passionate about that you can't NOT finish.

And then there's that whole thing about whether anyone else will want to read it.  Not that you should care about that.  Supposedly.  Until you have to care.

Premise envy can sneak up on you.  That's when you hear about a new novel coming out and think, why didn't I come up with that? Usually it's a simple idea, but powerful and full of possibilities.

It can be paralyzing trying to grasp for that great next premise, even if you've completed a novel or ten.  Because the further we get into this writing gig, the more we want to succeed.

To start with, I usually find something I'm excited about: a character, a setting, maybe even an open-ended social or political issue.  Or maybe there's a conflict that's driving me -- two things that oppose each other so forcefully I have to see how it will all play out.

The key thing is being able to imagine writing enough words to complete a whole novel.  Then I start researching/outlining and generally preparing to start a manuscript.  If I'm still interested a week later, that's a good sign.  I write chapter one, and I wonder if a reader would be able to stop reading that book.  What if it had been written by someone else and I had randomly come across it?  Would I be compelled to continue reading?

I've started enough manuscripts to know that not all ideas are good enough to stick it through.  But when you find the right one, it's pure magic.