It's here, it's here! National Novel Writing Month, where people all over decide to stop thinking about writing a book someday and just Do It. There are a million ways to write a novel. You can use outlines, a synopsis, a storyboard, or just strike out and follow your idea to see where it leads. All of these methods start with one thing: a clear grasp of what your story is about.
This morning while I was making lunches, I asked my oldest kid what she was working on in writing. "A story about a shark who wants to be friends with a mermaid." I told her that was a premise, and that she'd just described her premise in a one-sentence summary, which meant she was well on her way to success.
What is your one-sentence summary? If you can't describe your idea easily in one sentence, stop and spend some time thinking about and refining your idea. Writing your story begins with knowing what it's about, as clearly as my eight year old described hers. You don't need to know all the details in advance, but you do need a clear idea of what you're trying to do. That one sentence can remain your guide and your target through the whole thing.