Today you’ll be writing a premise statement.
This sentence will be your guiding star for your project. As your master plan, it’ll help you stay on track as you write your book. That doesn’t mean that you can’t change it, however. It’s okay — expected even! — to replace an old premise statement with a new one as you learn more about the inner/outer story of your book, especially if you’re writing fiction or a memoir.
This one-sentence description is what your book is about, its essence in one sentence. It contains both your inner story (theme) and outer story (the events or theories or information). The inner story lessons happen as a result of the outer story.
Here are a few examples (from Mary Carroll Moore’s guide on book writing):
The Wizard of Oz
Outer Story: “Dorothy travels to the magical land of Oz.”
Inner Story: “She discovers there’s no place like home.”
Premise statement: “Dorothy travels to the magical land of Oz and discovers there’s no place like home.”
Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf (a nonfiction book)
Premise statement: A discussion of how reading makes the brain more efficient and evidence about what happens when the brain doesn’t learn how to read.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Premise statement: When a girl learns she is born intersex, she has to decide whether to continue living as a woman or be true to herself and live as a man.
Post your own premise statement in our forum. Try out a few different ones, if you’d like.
If you’re writing an essay or short story collection, and you’re struggling with identifying just one premise statement, write a different one for each section of the book.
NOTE: This article on premise statements in books from Joe Bunting of The Write Practice showed up in my inbox over the weekend! Great timing! So funny 🙂 It’s also a good explanation of the importance of a premise statement and how to write one. Definitely take a look! (And if you don’t subscribe to The Write Practice, try it out. He has a lot of great free resources.)