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)
Frankie has taken another pass at the opening chapter of The Musubi Murder. The last version is here.
“Our guest of honor seems to be missing.”
I was already nervous at the prospect of greeting The Most Hated Man in Hawaii. I hoped that whatever was holding him up wouldn’t put him in a bad mood.
“This is no good.” Mercedes Yamashiro glanced around the Campus Dining Center and lowered her voice to a whisper that only a few tables around us could hear. “I wen’ knock on his door this morning to see if he wanted to drive up with me but no answer. I thought he left already.”
“Maybe he stopped to check on the Hanohano,” said the good-looking man sitting on the other side of me.
Mercedes put down her chopsticks and stood up.
“I’m gonna go talk to your dean over there. He and Jimmy had dinner together last night.”
“Are you sure you want to bother him?” I hoped Mercedes wasn’t going to leave me alone with the dark-eyed man.
“This is not like him, Molly. Jimmy would die before he missed a breakfast in his honor.”
Mercedes hurried over to the administrators’ table. I switched on my beaming-at-(snip)
Even though Frankie included a narrative suggestion from the last critique and this is a nicely written immediate scene with good voice, it still isn’t tugging me forward. I think that it has to do with the fact that there are no story questions raised that relate to the protagonist. The tease about the guest of honor—who I assume is the murderee—isn’t really paid off in the chapter; an announcement is made that he has been unavoidably detained, and then the story has the protagonist required to interview the guest of honor and ends there.
Maybe this is another case of “too-soon.” If Jimmy, the missing guest of honor, is the person killed, and if Molly finds the body, then I think that’s close to where this story starts. But, in my view, the best place to start is where the protagonist is confronted with some kind of trouble that has serious consequences for her. The writing is strong and clean, so I don’t have any notes other than maybe show us something that starts later and embroils the protagonist in troubled times. Considering the voice and the writing, I'd like to see that.
For what it’s worth.
“I'm a rank newbie with just my first draft under my belt and a bad case of "Now what?" I've read many books on writing and editing, but Flogging the Quill is the first to give me hope that I may indeed be able to whip my creation into a novel-like shape. I especially recommend it for NaNoWriMo. FTQ makes an excellent read in December after the chaos of November fades. Ray shows you, very clearly and with humor, what needs to happen after 'The End.'” Elizabeth
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.
© 2013 Ray Rhamey