Call for submissions: the end of the queue comes soon. If you have a chapter or story that could use some outside eyes, please see the submission directions below. Thanks.
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.
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)
Mike has sent the first chapter of a dystopian YA novel, Hush.
They call me First because that’s what I am.
Guadalcanal, August 7, 1942. Oh seven thirteen GMT, 20:13 local. Only no beach.
Left forearm block followed by a right cross to the temple. My opponent goes down.
One more to go. I side-step his lunge.
January 18, 1593. Kingdom of Siam. I am Naresuan. It’s a Monday and I’m minus the elephant. None of that’s important now.
An inside leg kick followed by a left elbow to the jaw. A Muay Thai head clinch and then an onslaught of knees. My opponent goes down.
Funny thing is, I didn’t even know what Muay Thai was three weeks ago, but I’ve been using a lot of it lately. My victims lie motionless, but alive. That’s the rule.
What did you get for your sweet sixteenth? I got an assignment. This time it was easy, no doubt a present. And I didn’t think they cared…
The Hush slowly drowns out. The memories fade like the washout from a dirty sink. As much as I hate it, I’m more worried that it won’t come back. Here comes the headache…
It’s mild this time, maybe another gift. I still curl into my fetal ball position to ride it out. This is about as good as I ever feel anymore, so I try to enjoy it. I rely on the pain to block everything else out.
Close, but . . .
Good writing, strong voice, and an exotic opening, but I just didn’t connect with this character and what was going on. For me, the narrative was bits and pieces that lacked connective tissue. The reference to 1942 and then the one to 1593 I found confusing.
There wasn’t much in the way of tension for me, either. I understand that he’s fighting someone, but he is so emotionless and almost uninvolved with it that it seems mechanical, and as if he doesn’t care. And isn’t threatened. So, if he doesn’t care and isn’t threatened, why should a reader?
I understand that the Hush is an important part of the world, but it’s undefined in any way, which also hinders connection with the story. Keeps me at arms-length.
There was good stuff on the second page that might have carried me through had it been on the first page. For example:
It’s nine o’clock and the sun is already becoming unbearable. I can’t help but wonder how many old and very young will die today. There all just a bunch of Dusties anyway, Fifty would say. I make it to the outskirts of New Voice City before the winds start coming over the dirt lakes.
While that doesn’t increase tension, it does promise an unusual new world to explore. Other than not needing a hyphen for “side-step,” there was little in the clean writing to pick at. My thought is to rework this fight in some way to make me feel it as the character does--if he does. He may be emotionless, which isn’t promising.
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 format with double spacing, 12-point font Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins.
- Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
- And, optionally, permission to use it as an example in a book 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 you turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.
© 2012 Ray Rhamey