If you’ve never experienced this situation as a writer – you haven’t lived!
You have been hammering out your story for ages. In your head this story is AMAZING! You only have to think about the opening scene and your heart starts to gallop. It’s so different and unique. There is a lot going on too with a cast of thousands and an array of plot threads, but that doesn’t both you. This is an epic tale which, if turned into a film would be at least….six hours long.
When you are not writing you are prancing around the living room in your PJs with a huge goofy smile, plastered across your mush. Your Gratitude Diary is full of ‘thank you for blessing me with something truly wonderful,’ and ‘I have so much love for my creative muse right now, I will be eternally grateful for what they have given me – invisible hugs to them xx’ *Sigh*
Sadly in Literary Land everything good must come to an end.
In this scenario someone asks you to explain your story premise to them. You take a sharp intake of breath, flick your hair, wipe your clammy palms on your jeans and try to contain the mounting literary excitement inside of you. “Well here goes…” you excitedly squeak. “Now then, where do I start?”
Half an hour later and you are still talking about your story premise. You finally wrap things up twenty minutes later with a sigh and a wipe of your brow. The poor soul who had to listen to all that will be seen staggering away, in search of a darkened room and a cold compress for their throbbing head. *Sigh*
A few writing craft books catch your eye and they make you laugh out loud – ‘you should be able to express the premise of your story in a single sentence’. Ha! You roll your eyes and mutter stuff like, “my story is so unique, it can’t be summed up in just ONE sentence…there’s so much going on. Oh my goodness who the hell writes these writing craft books?”
After a few more attempts at getting your premise under half an hour you give up.
Those sensible words from the writing craft books slowly sink into your thoughts and start to nibble away at your writer brain. Ugh! Don’t you just hate it when common sense spoils stuff?
You find yourself waking in the middle of the night (all my big writing revelations happen in the early hours). You snap upright in bed, bathed in a cold sweat and with a pounding heart. In a small and frightened voice you whisper “it takes me more than half an hour to explain my story premise.” Cue your piercing scream, quickly followed by the scream of your loved one who thinks you are possessed.
You eventually fall back asleep and have a series of literary nightmares about having to wake up a literary agent, who fell asleep during your pitch and people handing out soft pillows at your book launch event with advice “you might want to make use of the pillow whilst she explains the book to you!”
You finally decide to seek help.
Here’s how to survive this challenging literary situation of not being able to explain your book premise in less than half an hour.
Consider the following:
- Don’t panic this happens to the best of us. I think we get so carried away with story euphoria we sometimes lose our way.
- This shocking discovery (you struggling to explain your story in less than half an hour) is the start of your journey towards literary greatness.
- There are only a few rare occasions when a long winded premise actually does some good. Once it took me a good hour to explain to someone the premise behind a paranormal romance story I was writing. By the time I had finished my listener was asleep and so too was their dog who had been suffering from a nasty bout of dog insomnia. Every dark cloud does have a silver lining but these situations are RARE.
- Literary agents need to be able to ‘get’ your literary offering FAST. Sadly they haven’t got all day to sit and listen to your forty-eight minute ramble.
- See this as a test. If you can’t explain your story in one or two sentences you might have a story which is over complicated and confusing.
Your short premise needs to include the following:
- Your hero or heroine.
- The problem they face.
- Where they are during this challenging time.
- What they must do to overcome their challenge.
It does not have to be fancy or flash. It just needs to be solid.
So, how do you go from a half hour of ramble to a two sentence killer premise?
Find yourself a scrap of paper and start asking yourself these questions:
- At a high-level what is your story about? Don’t write War & Peace! Try to sum it up in a few sentences.
- What does your hero or heroine want? I am not talking about their Xmas Amazon gift list. They must want something or you wouldn’t have a story.
- What is stopping them from getting what they want? Try to keep this as short as possible.
- What are they going to do to overcome this obstacle?
So, now you must be down to half a page of scribble as opposed to four sides of A4.
Take your answers and simplify. Keep removing unnecessary words until you are left with one or two sentences. Voila – your short premise!
Once you have discovered your new short premise you can expect the following:
- Strong urges to edit the hell out of your story.
- Twitchy and anxious minor characters, who know they add nothing to the story and are simply there because you went off on a tangent.
- No more anxiety when someone asks you to tell them about your novel.
- A clear direction of travel for your story.
I promise you good things happen when you have a short premise. Your story becomes tighter and focused.
Plus you will no longer bore the pants off some poor soul who made the mistake of asking you about your story. 😁
If you have anymore advice on this subject please leave your ideas in my comments box.
Have a great day writers!