4 (Random!) Things I’ve Learned This Week

professor-8321. If I want to write a (half decent) novel then I need a PREMISE. Does everyone else have a premise? It’s your core statement, a description of the novel in one sentence, it’s what you’re trying to ‘prove’ or show with your novel. You should have it in front of you when you write your novel and refer to it continually, like an exam question. Every scene you write should be linked, in some way, to the premise.


Am I the only one who didn’t know about this!? (I was discussing novel writing with someone who knows about these things and now that I’ve Googled it, it’s everywhere!). Please, someone, tell me about your premise (or lack of) and make me feel better!

2. Lots of people are nervous about the publication (in July) of Harper Lee’s first novel. Just in case it’s not very good (and first novels are, notoriously, not great). Bless, her, I hope it is good but could anything, really, be as good as To Kill A Mockingbird?

3. As much as I really want to go to this ‘Yoga For Creativity‘ day on 21st March, I’ve realised that a 4 hour round trip to Shropshire is probably not going to do much for my stress levels beforehand, or continuing my relaxed state of mind at the end. Shame.

4. The Manor House hotel in Moreton-in-Marsh, the nearest town to me, in conjunction with Books Yule Love bookshop, is hosting some writing lunches and evenings! Hurrah! The first one is a lunch next Friday 13th, with novelist Katie Fforde being interviewed by Jane Wenham-Jones. There’s wine and lunch and a book included. I am attending purely for research purposes and, ahem, to support a local endeavour, of course…I will report back!

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24 Responses to 4 (Random!) Things I’ve Learned This Week

  1. Wendy Clarke says:

    Funnily enough I found out about a premise a couple of weeks ago after getting stuck on my unplanned novel – I bought a book to help me plan and the first thing it told me to do was write one. Did I? You can probably guess the answer!

  2. I bet you did, Wendy!! Has probably saved you a lot of time in the long run! (says she, the premise expert!!!)

  3. KH says:

    I found out about a premise while writing my novel. I’d already written it but didn’t know what it was called. Similarly, I didn’t know anything about the Hero’s Journey but discovered I’d followed it anyway. Practically everything I read terrified the wits out of me only for me to discover that…I’d covered it only I hadn’t known it had a name or a recognised structure. All I need now is for people to buy the damned thing! P.S two agents told me mine was an excellent premise for a novel but neither was too drawn to my writing style. Fair enough, I guess but it shows that it may be best to focus on the writing. Good wishes KH

  4. Ooh, I’m intrigued about your excellent premise BUT I don’t expect you to reveal it on here – someone might steal it! Sounds like you are an instinctive storyteller/novelist – good for you. Sometimes we can get too caught up in the ‘rules’. I’m sure most of the great novelists didn’t use ‘how to’ books – they just wrote! Good luck with getting your novel out there!

  5. I wrote my first novel unaware of words like premise and after it was published, I’m sure it was the sudden realisation that there was a huge amount of “stuff” I didn’t know which made writing a second novel quite daunting! Of course, I did have a premise but it was purely instinctive and generally I don’t think I do know what it is until after the story is well on the way. I write mysteries, so maybe they have a built-in premise, as they’re all about the protagonist uncovering the truth. I have to say, though, that even now, as I embark on my third novel, the concept of identifying my premise is still slightly unnerving!

  6. juliathorley says:

    Now that you’ve pointed it out, I think I do have a premise in mind, but I don’t call it that. For me, it’s a springboard, that sets me off on the journey from ‘what if’ to ‘oh, that’s what’. Mind you, I haven’t written a novel yet, so what do I know. I’ve had a look at the creativity workshop and REALLY want to go, but it’s two hours away from me, too. And am I the only person who hasn’t read ‘Mocking Bird’?

  7. Julia, you MUST read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’! It’s a lovely book. Why don’t you run a Creativity Workshop like the one in Shropshire and if it’s any nearer to me, I’ll come!! (I can’t remember where you live?)

    • juliathorley says:

      I have thought about doing such a workshop and have started to gather material and ideas I could use. I’m in Kettering.

  8. That’s a bit more ‘do-able’ for me! Let me know if you do sort something out!

  9. Tracy Fells says:

    One of the best books covering premise is actually about writing drama ‘The Art of Dramatic Writing’ by Lajos Egri. I still thought at lot of what he covered was pertinent to novels and short stories. And I wish they would leave Harper Lee alone. ‘To kill a mockingbird’ is a classic and the fact it was her only novel made it even more special.

  10. Linda says:

    I’d been struggling for ages to write the synopsis for my novel, and then I remembered reading some advice that you should start by summing up the whole thing in one sentence. (Sorry, can’t remember where I saw the advice but I’m very grateful!) This was much easier, but I didn’t know I was supposed to call that single sentence a premise – I will from now on! The challenge now is to stretch the premise into a really interesting synopsis. So it’s back to square one …

  11. lonestarsky says:

    I had no idea about premise either. I can sum my novel up in one sentence so I guess that’s the premise, but it seems too vague to be a premise. Not sure about that…

    I agree with Tracy – half the magic of To Kill A Mockingbird was the fact that it was her only novel and it was so wonderful.

  12. makrotantalo says:

    No, I never start a novel with a premise. I let the premise come out of the writing, if you like. But I’m not as successful as you are, so perhaps there’s something in what you say.

  13. rosgemmell says:

    I’m not sure I’ve ever used a premise as such, although I did write a ‘logline’ for one of my novels when mentioned on a blog ages ago. Maybe it’s similar!

    Thanks for the mention in your Writing Magazine article – it was a lovely surprise to see it so soon and I enjoyed your piece!

  14. Ninette says:

    I had never heard about a premise…for novel writing – but as soon as I read about it here I googled away like mad and – now I have one! Aren’t I lucky (or not as the case may be). I have an outline, a synopsis, in depth character profiles, tons of research information and now I have a premise….too bad I’m nowhere near completing the novel! 🙂
    I must admit, that for me I think the premise will be a good thing. It is so easy to get lost and go off on a tangent. Having the premise close by, can remind you of your original aims – that’s if I’ve understood what the premise actually is…

    On another note, I love your blog, honestly it’s brilliant it is constantly informative and inspiring…
    It is one of the few blogs that I look forward to reading. When it pops into my inbox that you’ve published a new post I follow the link immediately. Took me a while to comment this time but believe me I read it within a few minutes of knowing you had posted. Keep ’em coming.

    • Thank you Ninette, that’s sooo kind! (sorry I didn’t reply before but I’ve been away for a few days and I’m still catching up!) I’m glad you’ve found the idea of a premise useful – and yes, I think you’ve got it spot-on. It should be the ‘backbone’ of your novel, your ‘guiding light’ (oh, this is beginning to sound like a song! Altogether now, la-la-laaaaah…!). Thanks for your comments about the blog too. It’s feedback like that (PRAISE!!!) that keeps me going. There are lots of ‘lurkers’ on here, I suspect, who follow, read, absorb, use the information I supply and even, perhaps, enjoy reading this blog, but who never comment and who would never, in a million years, consider buying my e-book or leaving a review on Amazon! (as you’ve done). I am thinking of writing a stern post soon on that subject.. but I’d probably better not. Some people are givers, some are takers…!

  15. charliebritten says:

    I’ve heard of ‘premise’. There’s a writing website called ‘On the Premises’, to which I’ve subbed, unsuccessfully. I suppose it’s bit like aims and objectives, mission statements and all that sort of rubbish. Come on, you write to get away from business-speak!

    • Yes, absolutely, Charlie. I think there’s a danger of ‘over analysing’ the whole thing. Perhaps it’s best just to have a rough plan/idea of where you’re going and what you want to say .. and then WRITE!

  16. Rena George says:

    Just found your great blog, Helen, and have so much enjoyed having a mooch around it. All writers should be able to produce a premise for their work. Apparently. So thank you for that Google link. Very interesting.

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