6 Questions To Ask Before You Even Start Your First Draft

6 Questions To Ask Before You Even Start Your First Draft

We’ve put together a post on questions you should ask before you start your first draft.

In a previous post, I wrote about first drafts versus second drafts. Now, 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 plot holes are and what will and will not work.

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

Click here for the companion infographic for this post: First Draft Checklist For Novelists

6 Questions To Ask Before You Even Start Your First Draft

  1. Who is 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. Can you 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. Have you figured out your inciting moment? This is the moment of change for your character. Remember we don’t start with backstory or flashbacks. You need to drop your character right in the middle of the action. Your character’s goal often comes from this moment.
  4. Have you identified 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. Do you have your sub-plots in place? 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. They will provide your sub-plots.
  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 force you to think about the whole story. It 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.

Click here for the companion infographic for this post: First Draft Checklist For Novelists

 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

TOP TIP: If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course.

Posted on: 10th June 2015

11 thoughts on “6 Questions To Ask Before You Even Start Your First Draft”

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

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

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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

Comments are closed.