Remembering Promises to Your Reader

The next update of Aswiebe's Market List will be after 06/15/2023.If you don’t want to miss an update, subscribe to the Aswiebe’s Market List newsletter:

Website Update!

A reminder that my full market list is now, finally, fully searchable online! Of course, you can still download the complete spreadsheet and keep your own copy on your own computer.

And I’ve added a new page that is all the very latest updates (the same markets as in the table below, now with even more details!), searchable and sortable in the same way as the full market listings page. Both of these pages are, of course, best viewed on a wide screen.

Remembering Promises to Your Reader

Every story makes promises to its readers, even if the author doesn’t realize that they’re doing so. The trick is recognizing which promises you’ve made, and making sure that the ending pays those promises off in a way that either the reader expects … or will be delighted to have not seen coming. Handle that last one with care.

Critiquers can help. As I go, I ask my critiquers to write down questions they have (so that I can make sure they’re answered), the details they think are significant (so I can check if I want them to be), and things they expect to be resolved by the end.

I also train myself to notice the promises that I’m making. Is there a countdown to something? Is there unresolved tension (romantic or otherwise) between characters? Is there a big event coming up? Have I been foreshadowing anything? Did I set a gun on the mantelpiece and forget about it? Either that gun has to be removed from the mantelpiece, or it has to go off. That metaphorical gun can be a character, a conflict, a looming failure, or a striving for success.

I can’t keep track of all that stuff in my head. The promises that I make intentionally as I write, I also note down in my plot notes for the ending. (I’m approaching the ending of my novel now, which is why I’m thinking about this.) On my current project, I’ve been getting critique notes as I go, which is not something I always do and definitely not something I recommend for everyone! But it has helped me get a feeling for what promises my readers are picking up on, and that has shifted some of the details of the satisfying ending that I hope to provide.

During revisions, I keep a separate page just for notes of what I am promising and foreshadowing, and I check them off when I pay them off. I only write down the promise or foreshadowing when I actually see it on the page. Sometimes I need to work it in earlier to give it more impact. Sometimes the payoff isn’t good enough to be worth the promise, and I decide to take out the set-up entirely. It depends. Ah, the magic of revisions!

If all goes well, readers end up feeling satisfied with the ending, even if they don’t see all the moving parts that set up that emotional response.

What I’ve been up to lately, writing-wise:

I am at 120K on my “if T. Kingfisher wrote The Expanse” novel, about a derelict alien space station and the scrappy salvagers existing at its mercy. (Yes, I still need a better elevator pitch and comps!) If all goes according to plan, I should be able to finish the first draft of this book before the next edition of Aswiebe’s Market List. And then laugh. A lot. About how I was once worried that it would be “too short.”

Things Shiny or Useful

Archive of all shiny or useful links:

6 Ways to Write Characters You Love to Hate:

8 Promises You’re Making to Readers—and Then Breaking:

Six Lessons from my Writing Crush:

How to Brainstorm Original Ideas for Christmas Horror Stories:

Featured Market

Qualia Nous, Vol. 2 wants dark science fiction and all blended sub-genres of science fiction (horror, fantasy, etc.), pays $.10/word (capped).

The first volume of Qualia Nous (2014), edited by Michael Bailey, won the Benjamin Franklin Award for science fiction and was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in an Anthology. It was a Foreword ReviewsBook of the Year finalist in horror, science fiction, and a bronze winner for anthologies, as well as a silver medal finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Awards, a finalist for the Indie Book Awards, and a winner of the International Book Award. It was also the first Written Backwards anthology (of eventually many) to contain work by Stephen King.

… While not many like the term “literary,” that is what this anthology is looking for: groundbreaking work that break normal conventions and will stand the test of time, propelling emerging and undiscovered writers into the mainstream.

Written Backwards

Basics: speculative fiction and poetry, 3,000 – 10,000 words (fiction), pays $.10/wd, no reprints, due 7/31/23.


Market List Updates

Go read the very latest updates. They are searchable and sortable. Best viewed on a wide screen.
Click to see all the latest updates!

Keep writing, keep submitting, and good luck!

Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Keeper of Lists
Aswiebe’s Market List
Abra Staffin-Wiebe’s Author Website


Author: Abra Staffin-Wiebe

Abra Staffin-Wiebe loves dark science fiction, cheerful horror, and modern fairy tales. Her stories appear places including, Escape Pod, and Odyssey Magazine. Read:

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