Hey, this is the 800th “flogging” I’ve done since I started doing this on FtQ. If you have a moment, how about using Comments to tell me what, if anything, you get from reading them. Is there an aspect of your writing that FtQ has helped you with?
Submissions Needed—only one left in the queue. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.
The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.
Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.
What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below--new: I've added a request to post the rest of the chapter.
A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.
Before you rip into today’s submission, consider this list of 6 vital storytelling ingredients from my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.
Evaluate the submission—and your own first page—in terms of whether or not it includes each of these ingredients, and how well it executes them. The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing because that is a must for every page, a given.
- Story questions
- Tension (in the reader, not just the characters)
Marlene sends the prologue and first chapter for Elemental Fire , which is either a YA or middle grade novel.
I stood as the school bus rumbled toward the end of our rutted road. The substitute driver frowned in the mirror, and I struggled not to glare back at him. He ran his finger down the list taped to the dash. “Last stop. Have a good evening, Brooklyn.”
The glare won. Hearing my full name topped off an already miserable day. “My name is Brook,” I mumbled. Stomping down the steps, I flung my bag over my shoulder, then ran across the road.
The steering whined as the driver navigated the tight turn, hemmed in by tall pines and the fence of our horse pasture. Finding Dad was the only thing on my mind. How could he?
I’d rather have listened to our history teacher drone on about the Lost Nation than hear the intercom voice call me to the shrink’s office. Mr. Rowdy’s latest theory was that the tribe had lived in the valley Dad’s ancestors settled before they all disappeared. If so, they’d left behind nothing but ghosts. Still, easier to ignore that nutjob than the insinuation that I was the mental case in front of everybody. My friends already treated me like a china doll that would shatter if they looked sideways at me.
I clenched my fists as I stared up at the old white house. Not much chance Dad would be inside like a normal parent, but since I wasn’t allowed in the lab without an invitation, I didn’t need to get in trouble for interrupting some precious physics experiment. I wanted to be the one doing the yelling.
I love getting clean, clear writing like this. A good, clear voice, too. I liked the character and the way she is introduced, and there’s a sense of clear conflict with her father coming up. So I gave this a page turn. Interesting things happen in the chapter, but there are a couple of things I’d like to see. First is a clearer indication of the character’s age. This could be done by slipping in a mention of the level of school—for example, “the high school’s shrink” or “the middle school’s shrink,” etc. The second is that, for me, the chapter ended without a strong story question that relates directly to the protagonist. While the mysterious tornado clearly sets something up, I wanted more of its impact on her life, what jeopardy its appearance and disappearance means to her life. A little more in the first chapter, please. The chapter continues after the fold--what do you think?
For what it’s worth.
Submitting to the Flogometer:
Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):
- your title
- your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
- Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
- Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
- And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
- If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
- If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.
Flogging the Quill © 2014 Ray Rhamey, story © 2014 Marlene