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Saturday, July 23, 2016

How to Create the High Concept Novel

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

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Are you a novelist striving for a high concept story? Have you heard the term and not fully understood what it means? Worse yet, has an agent or

editor challenged you to create a high concept novel, and now you have brain freeze? Let me help you unpack what agents, editors, and readers are desperately seeking.

A high concept story is one that has potential to spread like wildfire, either within a genre or across a large audience. Think of Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Hunger Games, Divergent, Forrest Gump, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, Les Misérables, and the list continues.

Rachelle Gardner writes, “High concept means the PREMISE of your book will get attention, before anyone sees even one word of your writing.”

Are you still scratching your head? What is this thing called a premise?
Do you know why you must write this?

  • What is the burning passion to spend hours perfecting your craft?
  • What is the moral truth to be explored, revisited, and turned upside down?
  • What sears your heart with a what-if?
  • What keeps you up at night and preoccupied during the day?
Begin now for a powerful premise.
Sometimes the premise can blow away an agent or editor in one sentence; sometimes it takes three. But it must be unique to the writer and to the story’s concept, something the writer has never written before.

Another element is how the premise affects you, and why you are the only one to write the story.

When you are brainstorming your novel’s potential high concept, ask yourself the following questions.
  1. What is your distinctively different premise?
  2. How is your story original?
  3. Why are you the only writer who can pen this story?
  4. How are your characters intriguing?
  5. Is your story idea fresh and exciting?
  6. Are the plot twists super-unpredictable and yet believable?
  7. Will your story touch the hearts of cross-genre readers or a wide-niche market?
  8. Does your story entertain?
  9. Are strong emotions a part of the high stakes?
  10. Can your readers step into the closet of your character and emerge satisfied that they have lived a true adventure?
Now write your high-concept idea in one sentence. Make every word count. Don’t settle for the first draft. Refine what you’ve written. Let your passion swell. Give yourself time to ponder over ideas, and consider if this type of novel writing is for you. Come back to it. How has it changed?

When I wrote Deadly Encounter, I believed in my premise. What if a woman is riding her horse and stumbles onto a dead body, a wounded dog, a drone, and a motorcycle?

Perhaps your story idea falls within the high-concept criteria. I hope so! If you believe in your premise, then get started with the groundwork of making your novel idea the next bestseller.

Tweet this: How to Create the High Concept Novel

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect
an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at


  1. DiAnn, I glean from you every time I read your posts or hear you on Jerry's Guild. Thank you. My son and I are writing a YA mystery novel together. Your points give us more to consider. Thank you. God bless you as you continue to serve Him.

  2. Thank you for sharing. You give a new meaning to developing concept.


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