Submissions invited: If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, 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)
Kate has sent chapter 1 of God Save Rehoboth.
“Oh my gawd, Lora, you won’t believe what I saw today in the supermarket!”
Clearly, she’d been reading the tabloids at the register again. She had that conspiratorial, indignant tone. She loved nothing more than to badmouth Hollywood’s latest starlet-harlots, presumably so I could glean a higher standard from her example.
“What, Ma?” I continued picking at my salad, feigning interest.
“They’re waxing their hoohoos now! They’re paying strangers to cover their hoohoos with hot wax!!” She put her napkin up to the side of her mouth so she could whisper the dirty part.
“It’s called a bikini wax, Ma. It’s for hair removal. Pubic hair.”
“Oh Jesus, God, Lora, don’t say pubic in public!”
Here we go.
Her eyes narrowed to slits as she sized me up, as if seeing me for the first time. Narrow slits turned to saucers, “For the love of God, Lora! Tell me you’re not in on this self-mutilation business! A woman’s body is God’s greenest pasture!”
I had no idea what this meant. What the hell could that mean?! For a distraction, I focused on the layers of paper napkin fluttering in her fevered breath, failing to fully muffle her conspiracy theory. The man at the next table stole a glance in our direction. He was alone, (snip)
Well, for the first time in a while, it was voice plus writing that got me to turn the page. The tension here, for me, was wondering where this conversation about pastures, etc. would go. The characters are fun and interesting, and there’s that voice that promises wit and fun. I loved “God’s greenest pasture,” which was nicely paid off on the next page when Lora says,
“God’s pasture could use a little mowin’ sometimes, Ma, that’s all I’m saying. It looks more like a jungle down there.”
I would, however, trim the description a bit—the fluttering napkin could lose some words, I think—in order to get on the first page the part that I snipped off. It is this: He was alone, ...
disarmingly handsome, and obviously enjoying eavesdropping on this conversation of crazy.
That addition adds a needed story question or two—how will she handle being listened to, will the man enter the picture? 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 for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.
© 2012 Ray Rhamey