Call for Submissions—just 2 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.
Call for Questions—as an alternative, please send any questions you might have about writing, self-editing, self-publishing, book design, etc. An email would be fine, or just use comments. 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)
Karen has sent a new first chapter for My Friend Mike.
He wore the dark blue uniform of a Cincinnati cop; long-sleeved and he must have been hot, but I didn’t notice any sweat. I knew it was hot outside because I remembered seeing ninety degrees for a high in Cincinnati, but I couldn’t recall where or when I’d seen that. He held a small notepad in one hand and a short pencil in the other. I saw a holstered gun at his hip, and a radio and nightstick and handcuffs and who knew what else was hanging on that belt.
I smiled at him and said, “Come in,” so he walked across the room and stood at the foot of my bed.
“Well,” he said to me, “you’re talking today. That’s good.” I gathered from that statement that he’d tried to talk to me sometime before today, which was odd, considering the fact that I didn’t remember him.
“Do you remember me?” he asked, which I also thought was odd, considering the fact that I’d just been thinking that very thing.
“Odd,” I said.
“Oh, no, I’m sorry. I don’t remember you.”
Close, but . . .
The writing and voice are good, and there is some suspense in the fact that the character doesn’t remember a policeman who seems to think that he should. But there’s a key piece of information missing that should have been included in the scene-setting—the character (she) is in a hospital room. That would increase the motivation to turn the page for me.
But there was more material later that would be even stronger. For example, this little exchange after the cop gives her her Miranda rights:
The cop said, “You don’t have to speak to me. You can wait for your attorney.”
“My attorney? Do I need one?”
“You definitely need one. Do you have one?”
Or this one:
“Do you remember calling 9-1-1 last night?”
I closed my eyes and tried to remember, but I couldn’t. Last night was a total blank; in fact, yesterday was a total blank.
I think the opening could get there. I’d trim the opening description of the cop—those details can come later if needed—and set the scene in the hospital room, and try to get in the two elements I just mentioned, or something like that. It turns out that she was discovered sitting on the floor, badly beaten, next to her murdered stepfather and a knife, and has no memory whatsoever. There was really good stuff in the chapter, it just needs, in my view, to put this woman in jeopardy of some kind on the first page.
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