- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
While each has strong merit, I'm paying particular attention to #8, since I chopped such a beginning from a recent CNF that has been getting rejections. Maybe I'll add the old beginning back and try another few places before I give up on it entirely. I am also going to have #4 tattooed to the inside of my wrist--happily my most recently completed story passed this test. Finally, we all pretty much know that I'm already committed to #6.
In other news, what does this image have to do with anything?