You’re sitting down to write a piece of fiction – a short story or maybe a novel. Can you bring yourself down to earth for a moment, back from the wonderful moment of imagination that inspired you, to write what this story is about?

All you need to jot down is a couple of sentences. It will only take a moment but it will give your mind a solid framework within which to continue creating.

The first sentence gives the briefest of outlines. The second one states what this will do for the reader. The reader, after all, is giving you his/her time. How are you repaying them?

You can save yourself a lot of time spent editing and re-editing by understanding right off where your story is going.

A friend gave me a wonderful idea for a story. There’s this Afghani warrior on the side of a mountain with the power to injure or kill NATO forces just by thinking into a neural transmitter linked to a powerful laser weapon.

I couldn’t wait to get home to my computer and I was typing as fast as I could to get this story down. Several weeks, many recommendations from writer friends and six heavy edits later I had a story that went somewhere and said something.

If only I had taken time right at the beginning sit down and briefly outline the plot. The vision itself was great but it needed to go somewhere and do something. That’s what plot and theme are about.

The theme is that second sentence – what will the reader get from this? It could be:

– pure entertainment

– teaching

– increasing understanding

– or – most likely – some blend of all three.

Think of the science fiction or fantasy novels – pure entertainment, but often with an element of information shared and the moral drawn.

As a writer you need to be clear about what you want your reader to get from your story. you can’t get by with a vague “Well, I’m hoping they enjoy it.”

Now that they’ve read your story, what do the readers have that they did not have before?

– A sense of the vicarious pleasure at being part of a world unfamiliar to them?

– Bubbles of laughter because it was so funny?

– An understanding of poverty in 19th century New York?

– A sense of outrage about bullying?

– Realization that achieving world peace is even more complex than they thought?

Ask yourself before you even pull up your word processing program “What am I giving my reader that they did not have before?”