Call for Submissions—a couple of clever writers have sent submissions, but there’s a need for more. If you’d like a fresh look at your work, please join the queue by emailing your submission 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)
Anna has sent the prologue and first chapter of Hide in Time.
Torwell Bridge, Kent, England
“You could not be further from the truth, Laura.”
“I have irrefutable evidence; it is no longer hearsay.”
Her course of action was clear: she would delay not a moment more. The man in whom she had invested all her hopes for the future must now become her past. Adam sat astride his chestnut stallion. His eyes never left hers not even when he dismounted and flung the reins to his approaching groom.
Laura turned away, gathered the lilac, silk shawl around her shoulders, the one he had given her, and hurried towards the house. He followed, caught hold of her hand, and spun her around. One last look; she would allow herself a final indulgent gaze at the man she had once thought noble.
She raised her eyes from his brown riding boots, focused on the black velvet collar where his chestnut hair curled as it skimmed his white shirt, and felt a pang of unreasonable jealousy for she would never touch him again. She hesitated, then glanced up. His eloquent eyes would haunt her until…
The first chapter opens this way . . .
Middleston, Kent, England
Sometimes Laura Yager could tell if they would get on just by comparing which newspapers they read. A contemporary short cut which must be tempered with time-honoured discernment. Would it work for Xandra Radcliffe?
Xandra, due in the agency any minute now, would have to wait to meet ‘Mr Right’. Once again, Matt Redfern, a possible ‘Mr Very Right’, was away on business just when he was needed. He wasn’t an easy client; despite having been introduced to dozens of possible matches, none seemed to be the one he was looking for. She had the feeling he was concealing something; perhaps she didn’t know him well enough. Yet she ought to; she owed him so much. Along with all the support he had given her when she first arrived, he had said something which profoundly affected her thoughts. She remembered the moment he had said it. She could see him now, sitting in a high-backed leather chair with one leg propped up on the other, ankle to knee; so relaxed. She hadn’t known him long and yet he’d gone right to the heart of the matter. Yes, heart. ‘I’ve heard that when you are near death, it’s not the things you have done that you regret but more often the things you’ve left undone.’ She’d focused on his blood-red socks as, initially, she’d thought him wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Yes for me
Both the prologue (this is the complete prologue, by the way) succeeded in raising story questions for me. The voice and writing are good, though there are some punctuation things I’d changed and “short cut” should be “shortcut,” and that looooong paragraph in the opening chapter needs to be broken up—I’d suggest here: “Yet she ought to . . .” The topic changes there for a natural break.
I should note that while the last part of the chapter opening seems like it’s slipping into backstory, it’s not—it is a good use of a “mini-flashback” to raise a story question that applies to the current situation. Nice work.
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