Call for Submissions 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)
Lexi has sent the first chapter of Ice Diaries, a work in progress.
Today is Monday, 23rd April 2018 (Nina maintains I have got a day ahead so it’s Sunday 22nd, but she is wrong.) This is the start of my new journal. I am going to write everything down, and by the time I get to the end of the book I’ll have made sense of the random things that have happened, and know what to do next.
Today no snow fell, the first time for months, and the sun shone in a brilliant blue sky. With luck there’ll be icicles, so much easier to melt than snow. Greg called, as he does most days, doing his rounds. He banged on the window, slid open the patio door and came in. I gave him a Mars bar. He put his bag on the kitchen counter and his gloves to warm over my wood burning stove while he ate it. The snow melted off his boots and pooled on the stone-effect tiles. I peered into the open top of his bag.
“What’s that you’ve got there, Greg?” He took out an A4 notebook, black with a scarlet spine, and handed it to me. I opened it. Crisp off-white pages, with faint blue lines and a margin at the top. I had a sudden fancy to start a diary. I made him an offer. “A tin of sardines?”
Greg concentrated, his big moon face serious. He’s got the hang of bartering now, and enjoys it. “It’s new almost, nothing written in it. There was only some numbers on the first (snip)
I enjoy Lexi’s writing--so smooth and clean--and the voice is very likeable. But, for me, this opening—and, indeed, the chapter—was pretty much tension free. You wouldn’t know it from this opening page, but at this future time in her world the planet is buried under a hundred feet or so of snow. The patio the visitor steps onto is on the tenth floor of a high-rise (I’d try to work that in on the first page somehow).
He enters, they have a pleasant visit, barter for her new notebook, and leaves. No story questions raised. Then she visits friends, helps the woman deliver a baby, and then goes home. No story questions. At last, at the very end of the chapter, she sees something moving in this barren place on a moonlit night.
While the chapter sets the world nicely, a standard and necessary process in science fiction, it seems to me that it can be done while something happens to the character that raises story questions about her and what will happen to her next that will either get her out of trouble or into more. As it is, things are pretty placid in her life, and there are no threats on the horizon.
While I'd love to explore her world and the consequences of a few huddled groups of survivors with nothing but snow--even the trees are buried, and that must have consequences--I want to do it in the context of a character dealing with what's happening in her life that causes a struggle for survival. This first page needs to create a little anxiety in me, and it doesn’t.
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 for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.
© 2012 Ray Rhamey