Screenwriting Tricks for Authors

Is my story idea BIG enough? — What is High Concept?

“Write what you most want to write” is always good advice. But let’s face it. If you want to make money at writing, there are business considerations to— consider.

So let’s talk about High Concept and the Big Book.

But first:

If this is your very first book or script, the most important thing is to find an idea that you can finish:

  • An idea and characters and world that you can fall in love with, enough to keep you writing every day, at least for 15 minutes a day, for nine months or a year.
  • An idea that you can test from the beginning to see if there’s enough plot to finish the book: which I recommend you do with Index Cards. Even if you’re a pantser!
  • You need to find a writing community, online and in person, with experienced writers in it, that you can run your idea by to make sure other people will get excited about it, too.
  • And then you must write and FINISH the book.


No dual projects. No chasing after shiny new ideas.

In all the years I’ve been writing and teaching, I have never seen a beginning writer turn into a pro writer by writing on multiple projects. It’s not completely impossible, but the chances are abysmal. Suck it up and finish one.

And if this is your first book — never give up something you’re passionate about for commercial considerations. With your first book or script, you are essentially teaching yourself how to write.The only real requirement is that you love it.

But if you’ve been writing for a while, if you have one or two or maybe more under your belt, published or unpublished, we need to have a different conversation.

Because I want you all to love writing—but I also want you all to make a living! So—

Let’s talk about High Concept and The Big Book.


There was a panel I did, I think at a RWA National Conference, on The High Concept Premise, during which we were analyzing High Concept in books and movies, and the even more elusive concept of the Big Book. One of the editor panelists had polled a number of other editors to ask them how they would define a Big Book. She reported that while everyone said that the Big Book is the one that everyone is always looking for (well, duh!!) —no one could give her a specific answer about what exactly it is. Or even try.

A Big Book is the one all the editors get excited about because they think they can make a ton of money with it.

But what IS that?

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