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)
Lexi, in response to my plea for submissions has sent a revision of her Ice Diaries that includes a new prologue. A poll on prologues follows the critique.
Morgan put one foot in front of the other, the snow crunching beneath his boots. One step at a time and he’d get there. A full moon shone blue and white on the undulating surface. Less than a mile away, City of London skyscrapers emerged from twenty metres of snow like the tombstones of a dead civilization. From a few of the nearer buildings thin smoke trailed through the clean air towards myriad stars glittering coldly above. He did not notice the beauty of the night; he had other preoccupations. Unless he reached the source of one of those wisps of smoke he would die.
Not far now, he could make it. The gash on his ribs gaped with every gasping breath, blood seeping. He battled pain, cold, hunger and exhaustion as if they were a tough opponent in the cage; keep fighting however much punishment you take, don’t admit the possibility of tapping out.
The weight of his backpack dragged him down. Its contents were no good to him any more. He shrugged the thing off and let it thump to the ground without a backward glance, staggered on for fifty metres then fell to his knees and began to crawl.
Chapter 1 opening:
Today is Monday, 30th April 2018 (Nina maintains I have got a day ahead so it’s Sunday 29th, but she is wrong.) This is the start of my new journal, where I will record all the details of my life after the collapse of civilization.
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. I once joked he runs a protection racket – we all got into the habit of giving him stuff when he arrived, because he seemed so helpless – and he took up the idea, though he interprets it his own way. He likes to think he protects us, checking up on our small community each day, carrying messages and doing a bit of trading. 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?”
Yes for the prologue, still want more from the chapter
The prologue, well written as always, raises great story questions. So good, in fact, that it’s a disappointment when I turn the page and it’s not Morgan’s story anymore.
The reference to the collapse of civilization in the first chapter is a definite improvement, but then we settle down to an easy-going domestic scene. It sets the world nicely, but there’s really no particular jeopardy foreseeable for the journal writer. Can’t you find the point where something happens to her that twists her life into knots and fill in the world and characters around that? I really like the voice and the writing, just want more of that irritating tension stuff.
So do you read prologues? Ones that are on just one page, as this one would be, are more tempting because they’re bite-sized. But, still, with a prologue you know that it isn’t the “real” story.
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