When writing, remember to keep the promise you made to the reader

Posted on | October 2, 2017

Last night I wrote the two words every writer craves more than any other: THE END. A story that has been on the back-burner for more than seven years finally came together. It went through revisions, so many revisions, so many good ideas that I had to twist, warp, include or discard to get to the point where I had told the story first. For the longest time I had a mass of chapters, scenes, and even just paragraphs that didn’t add up to a single, coherent story, and now they do.

I think.

Because the next step is to re-read the entirety of it and ask myself, “Do I make promises to the reader, and do I keep them?” Because I have a motto for writing novels: The Promise of the Premise conquers The Muddle in the Middle. “The muddle in the middle” is the part of the book between your clever introductions and your brilliant climax where lots of authors get lost and muddle through, trying to put together small points that may or may not lead to the ending.

The promise of the premise is just that. In the opening chapters you make promises about the story, and by the end of the book you’ve either kept or exceeded those promises. If you break your promises, you lose the reader and they won’t come back.

I write smutty, fluffy, often romantic stories set in science fictional worlds, with occasional moments of action, political tension, philosophical intrigue, or just downright weirdness. In Chapter One I introduce the heroine, Shandy, a hormonally challenged young woman from a world that rejects AIs and robots, so the promise here is obvious: by the end of the book Shandy will fuck a robot. In Chapter Two I re-introduce my protagonists from the last book, Misuko & Linia, a monogamous human/robot couple who talk about their monogamy and desire for one another in the strongest terms, so the promise here is obvious: something will come along to challenge their monogamy, and that introduces a third promise: It’s gonna be Shandy & Linia, somehow. More promises are made as the story goes on, involving five-meter-tall construction drones, questions about how a robot-heavy culture may encourage domestic violence, and how one lives in a culture where actual, human challenges are few and far between.

The answer I’m getting back now is that, mostly, the story hangs together. There are characters with too much spotlight (they’re named and seem to have a role, but disappear before the climax without sufficient justification for their roles), and there are some smaller promises made that aren’t kept. The second-to-last love scene isn’t as strong as I’d like. (Listening to audiobooks in the car is a great way to catch up on reading, but sometimes the cadence of the voice actress later invades the fingers at the keyboard.) This story has a painfully tight timeline, so fixing/changing them may be challenging, but… at least it’s done. Now to give it time to ferment, and which point, after Nanowrimo, I’ll go back and revise it.

On to other projects!

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