I was sitting with my critique partner last week, and the topic of the premise came up. We were talking about his new story outline, which he has been working on to have the structure solid before he began writing. This is a great idea, especially for pansters (those writers who write by the seat of their pants without an outline and who don’t necessarily know where their story is going) because it saves time in the long run. Without an outline, my writer friend could spend months and years writing pages and pages that ultimately he wouldn’t end up using. This is something that he has done in the past, unfortunately. He learned a great lesson because that particular panster style can be a waste of valuable writing time. He’s a much smarter writer now. He works out all his plot points, characters, and accoutrement in advance before he writes a word. Yeah. Smart.
So what is a premise and why do you need one?
The story premise is usually one or two sentences, and it usually expresses some universal truth. If you know your story premise before you create your outline you will have an easier time writing your pages and keeping your plot and character arcs accurate. The story Premise provides the natural structure of the story and expresses the entire story in those one or two sentences.
To put it simply, the premise is the statement that defines what your book is about.
But do you need one? If you have your premise, you will have an easier time pitching to agents, editors, and publishers because you will know what your story is about. You will have an easier time marketing. You will also have the premise to lean on if you story gets side-tracked. You can ask yourself if the scene matches the premise. If not, stop writing, and write a scene that does. So, yeah, you need one.
Coming up with a good story premise can be difficult, though.
Next week barring deadlines and snow drifts I will be breaking down the premise writing process into a few small steps to make it easier.