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Johne

How To Write A Premise

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https://thewritepractice.com/premise-definition/
 

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Whether you’re writing a book or a blog post, it’s tempting to just dive into your writing project. However, you will likely save yourself time and create a better end product if you settle on a solid premise before you start writing.

Want to learn how to write a book from start to finish? Check out How to Write a Book: The Complete Guide.
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What is a Premise?

The definition of a premise is:

“A proposition supporting or helping to support a conclusion,” according to Dictionary.com

“The fundamental concept that drives the plot,” according to Wikipedia

As you can see, there are different definitions for premise depending on whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how fiction and nonfiction writers should write their premise.

 

Premise for Fiction Writers

If you’re writing fiction, your premise needs to contain three things in a single sentence:

  1. A protagonist in two words, e.g. young girl or a world-weary witch.
  2. A goal. What does the protagonist want or need?
  3. A situation or crisis the protagonist is facing.

Here’s an example from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum:

A young girl is swept away to a magical land by a tornado and must embark on a quest to see the wizard who can help her return home.

Again, three things:

  1. A protagonist in two words: a young girl
  2. A goal: return home
  3. A situation: swept away to a magical land by a tornado

One effective trick for defining one is to write a one-sentence logline that will become the foundation of your story. The logline is a tool used primarily by screenwriters, but it can be very helpful if you’re writing a novel or a short story.


Premise for Nonfiction Writers

For nonfiction writers, your premise is a two- to three-sentence summary of the main argument or narrative of the book. Here’s what Michael Hyatt says in his guide Writing a Winning Non-Fiction Book Proposal:

The premise is a two- or three-sentence statement of the book’s basic concept or thesis. Usually, it identifies the need and then proposes a solution.

Since this is the first part of every book proposal, it’s important to get it right. For example, for the last month I’ve been working and re-working mine for a book that I’m ghostwriting, trying to cast the right vision for our future book.


What Is Your Premise?

Do you want to write a book but aren’t sure where to start? Are you working on a book now and need some help refocusing?

Regardless of where you are in the process, it’s a good idea to spend some time writing a solid premise. You wouldn’t build a house without laying a strong foundation. In the same way, don’t start writing without writing a strong premise.

It might feel like an unnecessary step, but it will save you a lot of time in the long run. Give it a try!

 

 

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1 hour ago, Johne said:

Here’s an example from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum:

A young girl is swept away to a magical land by a tornado and must embark on a quest to see the wizard who can help her return home.

Again, three things:

  1. A protagonist in two words: a young girl
  2. A goal: return home
  3. A situation: swept away to a magical land by a tornado

 

It's basically writing your blurb before writing your novel - which can be really helpful. How many of us finally finish an 80,000 word novel, and then have to boil it down to a couple of sentences for a blurb? A painful exercise, for sure.

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