Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nailing Your Concept

Concept is tricky. You have to keep it firm enough in your mind that you don't wander and get lost in the details, but still have it pliable enough to bend if a killer twist comes up that you weren't expecting.

Keeping your concept in mind is crucial. And no matter whether you are still in the plotting stage or finishing up your final draft, you should be able to write a one sentence synopsis that includes three primary pieces:

~ Main character
~ Theme
~ Challenge to overcome

Most of you know, this is not an easy thing to do, but it's something that as a writer you just have to work at until you get it. Being able to hold onto this one sentence as you're writing will give your book the consistency it needs as well as help you maintain your focus and not get lost in the muck.

Here is an example concept sentence from one of my projects--

Parker spends every night trapped in the dreams of the last person he made eye contact with and it's killing him.

Think of the summary sentence on the copyright page of every novel. So, you give it a try. Post a concept sentence in the comments. It can be from any idea, outline, draft you have, and the best one gets to choose from:

1 - query critique
2 - 20 pg manuscript critique
3 - a copy of MATCHED by Ally Condie

Hooray for contests! Now go! :)


  1. Dude yours = amazing. on it!

  2. I'm with Christine. You make it sound so easy! But here goes:

    Abigail Johnson never knew her Gifts of Healing and Sight were passed to her by an ancestor who was killed by a demon--a demon who is now hunting Abby.

  3. How's this? It's for the current novel I'm trying to write:
    Aviella was a simple girl until she discovered she had to become a spy/princess in order to save her kingdom, while keeping herself and her heart intact and unbroken.

    I have a question. In this novel the setting is extremely important, so I'm trying to create the setting in which Aviella lives but have no idea how. Some authors do it so naturally, it makes me seethe with jealousy! They just put hints, here and there, for example, Kristin Cashore in her novel Graceling, or Paolini in all of his novels about Eragon - they somehow find a way to make it flow. You wrote a book, right? So you obviously have some idea of how to do this, right?

    What do you think, my fellow bloggers? Some help, please? Thanks.

  4. One more question. I have a lot, but I won't bother you with that many (for now, anyway).

    What do you mean by a "concept"? Like, a main idea? Or theme? Or plot? Which one?

  5. Oh, and I love your blog, by the way! I wish I could comment more on it, but I just don't have the time. Us writers definitely need more time in the day for this. Although I make sure that even if I don't have time to read an entire post, I make sure to skim through it, and then come back to it later. Your blogging is wonderful - I think you should make one of those how-to books on writing and not giving up, because you give a lot of good advice. I'd definitely buy it.

  6. Misti - Good question! When dealing with fantasy, as it sounds like you are, there are different ways to deal with it. It looks like you're looking for a more integrated way of introducing setting. Pay attention to the way Cashore and Paolini do it and try to work it in. No big chunks and no more than a sentence or two of description at a time. Make sure you have action going on in every scene and just practice. It will get easier, I promise. :)

    Concept, at least in this post, is the main underlying idea that your story revolves around.

    Thanks for your kind comments about my blog. I don't always feel helpful, but I try. Thank you for all your questions and comments today and it's nice to get to know you. :)

  7. I love one liners. creating them and reading them. Great lesson on theme BTW.

    Here's mine:

    Betrayal at the hands of the corporation he works for forces atheist hit man Antony Danic into a process of deconstruction that will drag him through the depths of a hell he doesn't believe exists.

  8. I don't have a concept to post, but I love the idea of keeping the potential summary sentence of the copyright page in mind while writing. Great post!

  9. I'm going to take a stab at this.

    Wyatt Cobb is about to "ascend" to the 13th "plateau" at the exclusive Academy he attends but first he would like to know why he's having waking dreams where the whole world burns and everyone he knows is dying of a terrible plague.

    Argh. Every time I try this, my sentence seems a little bloated.

  10. Cathy has to travel to hell and back to rescue her stepbrother--a ghost haunting his own body without remembering why.

  11. UGH. I HATE this exercise and always have, but you're right - it's important. So I'll try:

    David searches for the truth behind his fiance's mysterious death and discovers that she's still alive but trapped in a coma-like state of her own making.

  12. I'm horrible at this, but it's something I need to practice. A lot. Here it goes:

    Rana’s sisters accidentally rip a hole through space and the princesses are forced to dance with demons every night as the lines between dimensions blur.

  13. Concept is so important! I always try to nail down my concept sentence/logline before I get too far into the writing. Here's mine, for my newest WIP, The Unhappening of Genesis Lee:

    Gena, a 17-year-old girl who stores her memories in external objects, must hunt down a thief who is stealing memories before everyone in her town—including her—is robbed of their pasts.

  14. Nothin' to lose, right? ;)

    While his childhood in a town that uses a children's book as a sacred text wasn't as idyllic as we'd imagine, as the new Leader, Tristan must unravel a web of lies that could destroy the town's existence and exile his only friend.

    Wow, that ended up being a dense sentence, even after several attempts. Good luck to all who entered! :)

  15. I loved your premise!!
    And this sounds like an amazing contest! :D

  16. Jolie Landry wants nothing more than to go to fashion design school and escape living with her great aunt, a compulsive hoarder, until Jolie realizes that oddities and small treasures buried inside the hoard might help her design her way to freedom.

    Hm. My first try. This is a good exercise. I know, because it made my brain hurt.

  17. I've been working on mine since I saw this... I'm a bit of a perfectionist. So I'll just post it before I tweak it for the millionth time.

    Jackson's voice is locked in Faerie, his muse is locked in Ellie, and the only way to save both is to play a song.

    Lots of fun though, and a good exercise. ^_^ Thanks!