Are you delivering on your Story Promise?
The cover suggests an epic fantasy novel. The first few pages mentions swords and fairies and you know this book is for you. Or is it?
Readers establish expectations based on the first few pages of a story. Is there an opening hook pulling them in? Will the journey have a successful ending? Is it the genre they are currently itching to read? As the writer, you are creating a story promise in the first couple of pages of your manuscript. You are letting the reader know what the story will be and why it’s worth reading.
However, new authors often set the wrong expectations or have an unclear story promise. They introduce ideas, characters and clues that never pan out or never become relevant. If you don’t tie these up by the end of the story, it will feel like a loose end. Your reader will be disappointed that you didn't deliver the kick-ass journey they expected.
Here are a couple of ways to make sure you’re promising the right story:
- Study books in the same genre. If you’re a writer, you should be an avid reader. Pull books from your keeper shelf and see how those stories start.
- Highlight the characters, locations, and abstract factoids present in the first 3 pages (in your story or from the favorite book). Remove any that don’t later become important.
- Play with your words. If you’re writing an edgy, brutal murder mystery then it shouldn't sound like a sweeping tale of passionate romance.
- Read it out loud. Limit yourself to just the first page. If it hasn't gotten to the ‘good part,’ cut, cut, cut.
Your readers will appreciate the effort and will grow to trust you as an author. The best way to become a reader’s auto buy author is to always deliver on your story promise.