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Before you start writing

Before I start on my first draft, I try to answer the following questions:

  • Identify your protagonist and antagonist. Without these two characters, you will find it hard to get going, because this is where your conflict comes from. And conflict is what we want to read about. Your protagonist has a goal and your antagonist opposes that goal.

  • Tell your story in three lines. This is one of the best tests for your idea. Whether you call it a ‘pitch slam’, or an ‘elevator pitch’ this forces you to consider your story. This is something you will rewrite several times, but try to write one before you start.

  • Figure out your inciting moment. This is the moment of change for your character. Remember we don’t start with back story. You need to drop your character right in the middle of the action. Your character’s goal often comes from this moment.

  • Try to identify your first, second and third surprises. About one third into your story you should give your reader a surprise, then the middle should have a bigger surprise and then near the end you should have a big surprise or significant plot point.

  • Subplots go here. Besides the two main characters, you’ll have a friend character and a love interest. These characters will help you flesh out your plotline and the lives of your protagonist.

  • How does the story end? I need to know where I am going. Some authors believe they shouldn’t know the ending, but I have to know. That doesn’t mean it can’t change.

You will be able to answer some of these with ease. Some you haven’t even considered. What this list does is it forces you to think about the whole story.

This list is a starting point. It is important to remember that you can change any or all of this as you go along, but it helps to get you going. It gives you direction, it gives your protagonist a goal and it helps you to find your antagonist, etc.

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