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)
John has sent the first chapter of The Devil Whisperer.
I talk to the Devil. It’s my job. I listen to him reconstruct every detail of his dismantling of humanity.
One body at a time.
He sits across the table from me. Sometimes he leans back while smoking a cigarette. Sometimes he leans toward me while he chews the inside of his cheek. Sometimes he asks for a can of Mountain Dew and a packet of Hostess powdered donettes out of the vending machine down the hall. Sometimes he just sits and stares.
He’s as real and natural as any of us. Maybe because he is any one of us. Tonight his name is Xavier Baxter or Double X because of the two X’s in his name. His brand name comes with a logo. He fashions the two X’s into a Swastika. He says he has nothing against blacks. He thinks everyone should own one.
Tonight he is asking for paper and something to write with. So I have come 280 miles in a county leased Buick through the remnants of a string of tornadic storms to give this man a yellow Staple’s legal pad and a two-inch long pencil-no eraser. The kind you keep score with in miniature golf. He wouldn’t need an eraser. What he was about to write down couldn’t be erased. Not from the page and most certainly not from my memory once I read the words.
Strong voice. Intriguing portrayal of the Devil. High quality writing. I sure want to know more about the protagonist, what the Devil is going to write down, and where this story is going.
To be honest, it would be even stronger for me if there were a hint of possible trouble ahead for the narrator, but this opening is strong enough to motivate me to give it a few pages.
The writing is clean, so no notes except for one: the name of the store referred to is “Staples.” I wouldn’t do a possessive in that sentence; it will work fine as an adjective, i.e. “a yellow Staples legal pad. . .” Nicely done.
For what it’s worth.
Free sample chapters—click here for a PDF
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