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)
Renee has sent the prologue and first chapter of Blurring Reality.
She fled from a night of betrayal and death into the growing light of dawn until she couldn’t run anymore. Her lungs were on fire, her heart jackhammered against her ribs; her legs were pillars of stone. She collapsed among the scarred roots of an ancient tree and let the tears and grief come.
She cried for the dead. She cried for a lost past and a bleak future. She didn’t, couldn’t, trust anyone now. Safety lay in keeping the secret many would be tempted to sell or exploit. To kill for.
The sun was a searing orange ball above the horizon before she finally emptied. Wearily she wiped the last tears away. It was time to move on. They’d be hunting her. He’d be hunting her. She looked down at the thick band circling her wrist and shuddered: it’d have to be cut off as soon as possible.
She took several deep breaths and stood slowly on trembling legs. Running herself into the ground—literally she thought wryly leaning against the cool bark—hadn’t been smart. She couldn’t afford the weakness. She had to be aware and ready at all times so that—come to think of it, where the hell was she?
Chapter 1 opening:
Baron bit out one final curse and slapped the radio transmitter on. Receiving clearance, he triggered the ion engines, daring any malfunctions or idiot pilots to impede his steady rise. At ten thousand feet he shoved the engines to thirty percent and the ship streaked for open space. Orbital Control contacted him as he cleared the atmosphere confirming his trajectory, providing last minute traffic updates and wishing him a pleasant trip. Muttering a few wishes himself, he kicked the engines to full burn and relinquished control to his ship.
“Thor, display planetary view on main screen.”
Fourteen years as a Tracker...Baron folded his arms across his chest as the comp brain complied with the order…a reputation for finding anybody this side of the incinerator...he leaned back in his seat, crossed his ankles on top of the console and scowled at the slowly shrinking image on the large screen above his control panel…and she still leaves me floundering like a trainee sniffing out his first trail.
The woman was supposed to be an assassin, not a damn ghost. The way she just vanished, slipping in and out of buildings, cities—hell, entire solar systems, was frustrating and annoying and—and who the hell would’ve expected her to sign up to work at the Euphrates mining colony on Pappia?
Yes for the prologue (with reservations), No on the chapter opening
Despite some clichéd description (lungs on fire, jackhammering heart), the writing is good and there were strong story questions that interested me. However, the lack of identity of the protagonist of the prologue kept me at a distance. There was only one paragraph left in the prologue, and I wanted more of her story after reading the whole thing.
So I was disappointed when chapter one turned out to be an expository narrative introducing someone else. Renee did a good job of connecting the prologue person with the narrative in the first chapter, something that is often missing. But the first chapter turned out to continue in the same expository fashion as the first page, setting things up. It lacked jeopardy for the character, and no stakes if he fails in his mission to find the woman. I think this story starts later. I assume the woman’s story, the one I really wanted to hear, is secondary to the male character’s, and that’s why he’s the lead chapter. Too bad.
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