6 Questions To Ask Before You Even Start Your First Draft


Last week I wrote about first drafts versus second drafts, this week I want to discuss six questions that can help you along the way. I mentioned that I wrote my first draft without stopping to fix or rewrite. As the story develops and changes, I figure out where the holes are and what will and will not work.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. I’ll discuss these more in detail in the coming weeks.

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course.

 by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

  1. How To Turn Your Messy First Draft Into Something That Resembles A Novel
  2. Music In Writing: Part One – Pacing
  3. Music In Writing: Part Two – Memories

This article has 11 comments

  1. WordPainterWA

    And never to forget top run spell check after each scene – however, it may not always work when your dropped letter spells a word.

    Six Questions To Ask Before You Even Start Your Fist Draft

    Great article, Mia. Glad I’m not the only who occasionally misses the ‘oh-oh’.
    😉

    I tried to post online (about 6 times) but I never received a confirmation it went through, just a heads up in case they all did.

    DL Kirkwood

  2. Mia Botha

    Thank you, I appreciate it, DL Kirkwood.

  3. WordPainterWA

    You are welcome. It happens to us all.

    DL Kirkwood

  4. Ailie Baumann

    How would I go about fitting three surprises into a children’s book?

  5. Elaine Dodge

    On the email link, there’s a spelling mistake – fist instead of first. Just in case you want to fix it.

  6. Writers Write

    It was fixed on the WordPress site earlier this morning, but it cannot be fixed once it is in your inbox, Elaine.

  7. Michelle Wallace

    I enjoyed this!

  8. Gary Shields

    Great stuff. Minds all follow a trail like searching for bread crumbs. We expect things to mystical appear. The survey goes to the discovery goes to the risk analysis goes to the folks to be played. I always do that backwards because, I expect things to drop out of the air for me. I get a lot of that’s a no brainer comments, then- Start over before it’s too late!

  9. Asta Anna

    Could a minor character be a subplot?

    I’m beginning a story, with the help of your 6 questions, and one of my characters is a talking cat, who leads an independent life of it’s own.

    So, what I’m asking is, could this character wander of – have a subplot chapter of its own – and bring it in to the main plot? I hope my question makes sense,
    Asta Anna

  10. Teresa Valentic

    Great blogsite

  11. Lynn

    It is essential to my story that it revolve around 3 major characters, each with shared and unique protagonists. (Think “The Husband’s Secret”….but much better!)
    Can you recommend where to go for advice specific to “multi-hero” stories? Thank you

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