Sunday, March 16, 2014

Knowing Your Premise Before Sitting Down to Write

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books sent to me from authors that have both traditionally and non-traditionally (be it self-published, P.O.D or any other format out these days) published books from children to main stream. Many I have enjoyed, while others I have walked away with thoughts of how the story could have been better. But the one thing I noticed no matter how the author went about publishing the book is this…the stories I truly enjoyed, related to and found myself lost in as a reader all had a well defined premise.

All well told stories start with a premise. This isn’t me just stating my own belief about writing or how it works for me as an author sitting down to write. This is a hardcore truth we all must face and if we as writers sit down without knowing this premise to our story before our fingers hit the keys—we need to be honestly open to feedback we get before and after we publish our work.

For those new to writing or still learning the ropes, let me explain what a premise is and why it is important to this before sitting down to write—if you truly want to be like the “Great” authors we all cherish—be it Dickens, Wolf, Pearson, King, Rice, Tolkien, Rowling and so on.

In a writing meeting I attended, one of the authors shared the following about premise and I liked it so much, I wrote it down. I now share it with you.
In How to Write a Damn Good Novel, it is explained, “Writing a story without a premise is like rowing a boat without oars.” To go a bit further Carol shared the following:
• The premise is the reason you are writing what you are writing. It is the point you have to prove, your purpose for telling this particular story.
• The premise is NOT a universal truth. It is true only for that novel.

I do need to stress however not to confuse your premise with your stories them. There is a really good article by Rob Parnell at that addresses this.  

When you think of your premise, keep what Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” This quote has always really hit me as an author because as we sit down to write, we are opening our soul to the world. We are sharing bits of ourselves with each word, thought and action our characters take. Each story comes from something deep within us that we either need answered or feel we need to share with others—our original idea or premise.

 You may also notice a premise can be used as your pitch line to an agent or publisher. Premises are also used has the “Hook” on the blurb of most books. Most readers when asking about your manuscript or published book want to know the premise, even if they don’t use this term. As you can see, knowing your premise, keeping it at the front of all your writing and truly letting it guide you through your plot will help you create an original work that will engage and bring your reader deeper into your story.

VS Grenier is an award-winning author & editor, founder of Stories for Children Publishing, LLC, chief editor for Halo Publishing, Int. and also the founder & host of blog talk radio's featured station The World of Ink Network. Learn more at

1 comment:

Bruce Luck said...

Nice post. I followed the Rob Parnell link ant that was good, too. I like KM Weiland's stuff and she discusses premise here:

She has more here: