The Key to Writing a Fast First Draft: The Breakout Premise
Maybe you’re one of those divinely inspired Mozartian writers who take dictation from a higher power, but most of the rest of us have to spend some time on preparation in order to write a fast first draft. All too often drafts written in the white hot heat of passion result in the writer getting overwhelmed when the time comes to edit. That’s if they finish the draft at all. If you have even the loosest of plans, you’re more likely to avoid those problems.
With NaNoWriMo only two months away, now is the time to start thinking about what you’re going to write and how you’re going to write it.
Work on the one paragraph premise first. Develop an attachment to a unique character battling another character who stands for something you hate, in a situation set up to create the maximum number and intensity of obstacles and complications to your heroine obtaining her goal.
By creating a premise where conflict is inherent, written into it from the very first germ of the idea, you are unlikely to run out of steam or focus half way through. It’s advice I received from Donald Maass, agent and author of the Writing the Breakout Novel and Fire in Fiction, and I’ve never forgotten the wisdom of it. If you do that, your story will be built on a solid foundation and whichever way you take it after that, the tension will still be built in from the start.
Where do ideas come from?
Delve into your past life for something that made you hot under the collar, in a good or a bad way. Emotion-fueled writing flows more readily than over-intellectualized writing, and creates a story that only you could tell, from your personal experience and perspective, regardless of market trends and genre expectations.
Read the news to find real-life conflict stories. Even if you’re writing a genre novel news stories can translate into a fantasy world in ways that will ensure it springs to realistic life in the reader’s mind.
Watch things like TED videos that get you thinking about the world we live in and the things you care deeply about.
Read a lot of novels of the kind you’re thinking of writing. Make a list of what worked and what didn’t, in your opinion. Use that list in developing your own idea.
Do the same with films.
Developing the idea:
Trawl the internet for advice on how to develop your premise further, such as Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps and 8 Advanced Tips for Creating a Powerful Genre Pitch.
Watch videos like the one below, and make notes. There are tons of them on the internet, and they help you focus during the generation phase. I love what he says about the “breakout premise” and how to give the reader reasons to care about what’s happening to your character.
And enjoy yourself! This is the most fun part!
If you’re struggling to develop a breakout premise, you can find help at Free Expressions Seminars and Literary Services, where Lorin Oberweger offers one-on-one development help to writers.
You can also check out book blogs and Goodreads for published novels with premises that hook you from the get-go. Pick them apart and figure out why they work.
Post your favorites in the comments below!
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