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)
Barbara has sent her first chapter of Lonely Wives Club.
Alison mulled around the house. It was a place that she loved coming to. The large Tuscan style kitchen her mother helped her design was her favorite place to be. The large windows and double French doors let the kitchen be a part of the back garden. After all, wasn’t the kitchen the heart of every home?
She and Jack wanted it to be a place full of memories and filled with laughter. Alison wandered around the sitting room they filled with memories. There were pictures everywhere of her little family. One wall she dedicated to her and Jack’s daughters. The wall was covered in pictures of Holly and Jill from the moment Alison found out she was pregnant to just two weeks ago. They were her favorite pictures, but that was all she had. The girls were now in boarding school and Jack was away most of the time promoting his new CD or working on his next movie.
The past two years she never felt so alone. She needed to make some changes in her life. Her best friends, Frannie and Beth have always been there for her and she knew they would be there to support her in anything that she decided to do now.
Alison glanced at the grandfather clock in the entry way and knew that her friends would be there soon. Frannie had suggested that Alison join her and Beth at the local church for their weekly support group. Both Frannie and Beth wanted her to go along to meet new people and to maybe make new friends.
Looking at my regular list of story ingredients, I have to say that this lacks story questions and tension. The exposition and backstory tells us stuff, but isn’t really delivering something happening other than Alison mulling. I think you need to find the point in your story where something happens to Alison to upset her life and threaten to take away something she values. I read through the first chapter, and didn’t see that. Keep working on it, though—look for something with conflict in it, maybe later in the manuscript.
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