Every novel must have a question that begs to be answered. We’ll refer to this as the central question. The central question should be strong enough, and its outcome uncertain enough, to keep the reader turning pages. When I was writing The Year of Fog, I knew the central question from the moment I put the first scene down on the page. In the opening scene, a six–year-old girl, Emma, goes missing on a San Francisco beach while in the care of Abby, who is engaged to Emma’s father. The central question was: will Abby find Emma?
The central question drives the story. It is the source of most of what happens in your main plot.
What is the central question of your novel? Write it down now.
If you don’t know the central question, it can help to think about what problem your protagonist is facing. What happens in your novel (that you know about so far) that causes trouble for your protagonist?
Write about that now. When you are finished, go back and fill in your central question.