- Who is the Protagonist and what does he/she want?
- Who is the Antagonist and what does he/she want?
- What is the setting?
- How much time will the story cover?
Why is this story important to me? Why is it important to my readers?
This question helps you get to the heart of why you are writing it, and will help you decide whether the story is meaningful enough for you to spend months working on it. It might also help you find that elusive theme your English teachers always went on about.
Why am I uniquely qualified to write this story?
The purpose of this question is to help motivate you by discovering how your talents and experiences can make you feel awesome enough to put in the time and effort required.
Be careful with this question, though. Although it is an important question to ask, it is also an invitation for your inner critic to step in and try to convince you that you are not qualified at all. Don't let this happen.
What is my goal?
I wrote about this last week. You should understand what you hope to accomplish.
At the same time, I find it useful to think small. A novel is a big thing, a Big Deal. I can sometimes feel overwhelmed if I think about something as big as a book. It's easier for me mentally to think small. Even if my goal is to publish, if I think of what I'm writing not as a book, but as a story or a project, it is less daunting. Instead of writing a book, I'm writing a scene. Once I get through the scene, I can write another one. Then another.
Some of the common questions about audience, book length, genre, and so on fall under this question. Mainly, though, you just need to know what you want to accomplish and what constitutes success. Think about finishing a draft before you set a goal to write a best seller.
How am I challenging myself?
Maybe finishing a first draft is a big enough challenge for you, especially if you've never done it. If you have finished a story before, maybe your challenge is to write something more difficult that pushes your abilities to bigger limits. It doesn't have to be like that, though. Maybe the challenge is a new genre, a different time period, something out of your comfort zone. Maybe it's a daily writing goal. Or maybe it's just to get the thing written.
You know yourself and your limitations, so only you can really decide what your challenge should be.
By asking yourself these kinds of questions, or whatever questions work for you, you get to the heart of why you're writing and what you hope to accomplish. The purpose of the questions is to motivate you, to help you realize that nobody else can put these particular words together in the way you are about to, and that it's worth doing. They are to help blaze the trail you are about to walk down.