Call for Submissions—just 3 submissions left in the bin. If you’d like a fresh look at your work, please email 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.
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)
Ann has sent the first chapter of The War.
We’d been across the river canning and I’d pegged an old Poor man with my last can of Jim’s Eats. He hadn’t dodged fast enough; the can got him good, sliced his head right open. Blood poured down over his eyes and he staggered, then tripped and fell to the sidewalk.
When he got hit, the kid with him started to go to him but the old man took one hand away from his wound and pointed to the cans on the ground. The kid scurried around gathering up the cans we’d thrown and stuffing them into his little Spidey-man backpack. We drove off laughing.
Liam and I, anyway, were laughing. Chase was hung out over the side of my car, looking pretty green. I told him not to puke on my car.
“Sam,” he said, “I don’t think I want to can any more. We’re out of cans, let’s just stop for today.”
“Since when do I care what you think? We’re going across the river to get more cans and then we’re coming back. To can.”
Liam had parked us nose-in in front of the pharmacy, the one that stocks Jim’s Eats. Chase sat in the passenger seat, his shoulders all hunched over and his head hanging down. The little whiner. Chase could throw, he had an arm that could’ve gotten him a place on the Academy baseball team. But he didn’t have the right attitude. Seeing that mix of fear and hunger on the (snip)
Mixed reactions = no.
The writing is fine and the voice good. There’s a clear sense of character here—but this opening didn’t raise any strong story questions for me about the character and what was in store for him. The hint of “world” was good, but there was much more interesting stuff later. I’ll show you a bit in a moment.
I wonder about the tense used in the opening sentence—why not simple past tense? For example:
We were across the river canning, and I pegged an old Poor man with my last can of Jim’s Eats.
Now here’s a modified piece from later that I think could make a good start on a more compelling opening page. Note that this is only 12 lines of narrative (that could be shortened), so there’s enough space to introduce what this has to do with the protagonist and introduce a story question--it could have to do with the fact that this character expects to get his Halo on his upcoming 16th birthday. Or, even better, something happens that prevents him from getting it. What do you think?
I knew the Halo running toward us, agilely dodging the occasional pedestrian, leaping over rustic planters heaped with exotic blooms specially bred in greenhouses. I drew my breath in so hard my chest hurt.
He used to be Old Mr. Hunter, a white-haired creepy old fart who came to my dad’s parties and shuffled around with the help of a walker. What was the point of being rich if you’re a wrinkled mess of drooping flesh and loose skin? When I was younger I thought the wrinkles on his hands looked like the trails of tiny malignant worms crawling about beneath his skin, eating away at him until he died.
Then Old Mr. Hunter got one of the first Haloes, not the very first - my mom got one of the very first and she died. It was mostly my fault. My dad thinks so too.
But Old Mr. Hunter’s Haloing worked perfectly and now he’s young Mr. Hunter. He doesn’t need his walker any more and his skin looks just like mine.
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