I’m writing this to people who are writing so that other people will want to read their stuff. This isn’t advice to the purist out there who thinks catering to people’s basic need for a good story is too base for their efforts. I’m talking about commercial fiction and how to get someone wants to read a book that is worth their time and money. You don’t have to tell me the only rule out there that matters is there are no rules. If you believe that, you should read my Confessions of there are no rules writer post. I wrote in that valley for a decade. If what you are doing is working for you and your success speaks for itself, I’m honestly happy for you. Your fellow writers aren’t your competition, they’re just fellow travelers on the same path. I go on in great lengths in the blog post and I’m not going to rehash it here.
Eventually I realized that readers, whether it be agents, publishers or the general public are not opening your book and hoping you are just terrible at it. They want to be swept up in your story and you want them to be swept up in your story. Your job as a writer is not to con people into putting their money down and buying a pig in a poke. I remember my first world con where a silverback author joked that as long as the person bought the book, even if it was terrible, it was a win for him. That was in 2003 and I didn’t know why that was wrong, but it felt wrong. You are not going to make a career out of writing if you’re selling snake oil and hoping people are dumb enough to buy it. You want to work at the Lexus dealership, not a used car lot without a lemon policy You want to establish a business relationship with the people who buy your stuff that what you are selling is going to be worth not just their time and money now, but their time and money in the future. That’s how careers are born.
There are no hard and fast rule to get your reader to care but there are guidelines. From line one, sentence one you have to realize that there are stacks of books behind yours, whether your published or not, that may be just as worthy if not more more than what you’ve written. That first scene has to accomplish five tasks off the top of my head, but that’s a whole new post, too.