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 below.
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)
Antonia has sent the prologue and first chapter of Strange Bodies.
The bodies of the Richardsons had been hanging from the giant fig tree for two days and nights and the flying, creeping, crawling and burrowing inhabitants of the bush had wasted no time in finding a new home.
A strong gust of wind blowing through the secluded rainforest was enough to set them swaying and twisting in a macabre dance that disturbed their new inhabitants not at all. Small animals, lizards, ants and assorted bugs foraging for their sustenance had lapped greedily at the juices that slowly dripped and oozed and trickled their way down from the strange bodies.
As the unnaturally entwined pair spun and swayed slowly there was, from time to time, a flash of light from the blackened fingers of what had once been a woman and a glint of gold from the wrist of what had once been a man.
A hungry kookaburra tugged at stray entrails that dangled like long juicy worms. The tantalising smell of putrid flesh had attracted many more creatures of the bush and the discordant hum and incessant buzz of a thousand or more blowflies and other insects filled the air, but there was no one there to hear it.
At six in the morning, Sydney sweltered, the outside temperature reaching thirty-five degrees already. At forty-five, sky shields would unfurl, but for now the November sun blazed nakedly from the cloudless eastern horizon.
Awakened far too early, Verity Burne stared at her skydome, mildly annoyed that she'd forgotten to opaque it the night before. She imagined she could feel the sting of the sun, though the cooling system of the house worked as efficiently as always. She considered darkening the room and getting another hour's sleep. She didn't recall having a nightmare; they hadn't lasted for long after Terry died. Ruthlessly, she pushed any thought of him away.
Today she decided to make an early start, catch up on some research. Little more needed to be done on the Coopers for their appearance on the chat show this Friday night, but a lot more research was needed on Gerald and Roberta Richardson for the following week's show.
What she'd uncovered about the Richardsons and their fabulous Ice Queen diamond intrigued her, but they were a real puzzle. According to the available information, they were from South Africa but she was having trouble confirming that, running into unexpected blocks during her searches. The magazine article she'd written about Roberta Richardson's jewellery had been sparse on personal details, and the Richardsons had refused to allow (snip)
Yes and No
Nice writing throughout, and I liked the voice. As for turning the page, the prologue gets a yes from me, particularly because of the cliffhanger “Not yet.” I wanted to know what had happened to them, and what was coming. I would not, however, do it in italics--plain text is just fine.
But not so much the chapter. It introduces us to an interesting future world and the protagonist. I enjoyed the scene-setting and brief taste of the new world, and the text did allude to the people whose bodies were in the prologue—but then nothing much happens on this page and in the rest of the chapter. We don’t know what this mystery means to the protagonist, nor are there any stakes apparent, or trouble ahead for her. In the rest of the chapter, she gets up and gets dressed. I think the story needs to start later, when something happens to disturb her life.
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