A few weeks ago, I said I would publish my one-liner for life. A one-liner for a novel is a quick summary. So many people ask, “What is your novel about?” It’s important to answer that question in a sentence. For instance,

The sole son of one feuding Verona family falls in love with the darling daughter of the rival family and tragedy ensues. Romeo and Juliet.

Or, I’m reading this one:

A man wrestling with his nihilistic ideals brutally murders a greedy pawnbroker; eventually, he confesses his crime and seeks redemption. Crime and Punishment.

And I’m reading this one:

A boy traps a pregnant wolf and decides to return her to the mountains of Mexico where he meets strange sages and experiences poignant moments of beauty and brutality. The Crossing.

I’m writing this one:

Penelope Puckett attempts to rescue her late little brothers from the Isle of the Dead unwittingly changing the course of cosmic events. The Isle of the Dead.

(how does that sound? I’ve never put it in print before.)

And I’m living this one:

Danielle Harris falls in love and raises a family while trying to keep her dream of writing a novel uncorrupted.

This exercise causes you to discern whether you have focus in your reading, writing and your life. With it, you can hold up particular characters and scenes and find whether they belong in your story.

A warning. As much as we would like to have as much control over our lives as an author does over his story, we can’t. Remember, we are not the authors of our lives but the characters in the novel. But … any writer will tell you characters take on lives of their own and make decisions. They interact with their author. A writer realizes very soon her characters have wills of their own and sometimes they decide their fates.