Lisette saved the day with her chapter, but the pillory is empty again—no more floggings until folks send new work.
Call for submissions: If you’d like a fresh look at your work, please email 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)
Lisette has sent the first chapter of Ebo.
The Ashanti village was well laid out. Families tended to live together in small clusters of huts, with a common ground in the center, similar to a central courtyard. I had been observing the village earlier that day. Watching the men, women and children with their chores. I was perfectly capable of walking amongst them during daytime, but these people knew I was something more, and I saved that behaviour for necessary times. So I had decided to leave and return under the cover of darkness.
As I stood at a distance, partly covered by wild brush, my thoughts went back to the first time I had approached the village, several years earlier. I had been feeling bold that day and convinced myself that the Ashanti were complex enough to understand I was not there to harm them. Located on West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea; the Republic of Ghana was their home. Wanting to learn more about these mortals and maybe ease my loneliness with their company, I had chosen early morning to make my appearance, thinking sun break would probably make me seem less threatening.
I had slowly but deliberately walked out of the brush, more or less from the same spot I now stood, and walked directly into the village. A sorrowful smile covered my face as I remembered how naive I had been in thinking someone would approach me and I could explain how I was there on friendly terms, or maybe they would not even notice I was (snip)
No, but . . .
I like the writing and the voice, and the narrative promises an exotic locale that should be interesting, but there wasn’t much in the way of tension or story questions. The references to the people knowing the character was “something more” and to them as “mortals” just weren’t quite enough to tease me onward.
And the mini-trip to the past on the opening page slowed the pace. You wonder if the rest of the story will be this laid back. So I went looking for sterner stuff. Below I’ve cobbled together narrative from the second page. This page I would have turned.
The Ashanti village was well laid out. Families tended to live together in small clusters of huts, with a common ground in the center, similar to a central courtyard. I had been observing the village earlier that day. Watching the men, women and children with their chores. I was perfectly capable of walking amongst them during daytime, but these people knew I was something more, and I saved that behaviour for necessary times.
It was unsettling how they had instantly known I was more than they saw. There was no panic, no mayhem. They had simply lowered their heads, one by one, and stiffly retreated into their huts—staying indoors for the next few days, constantly burning incense and softly chanting prayers they thought would keep me away and forbid me from returning.
They eventually began to ignore my presence; so I ventured closer every time, until I was finally able to enter the village and walk amidst them. We seemed to have developed a silent agreement: I would not harm or disturb them, and in return they would not hunt me. I was sure their ancestors had found a way to destroy my kind. I could sense it in the way they let me come and go. I believed they knew the way to stop me if the need arose.
This time I waited to use night as a veil, feeling the need to come close, into their homes. I was not hunting. Something had caught my interest earlier. A European couple, staying in the village.
For me, this raises story questions that I want more on--what is this being? What will happen to the European couple? What do you think?
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