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 Flogometerposts 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 sent a revision of the opening of The Musubi Murder. The last version is here.
My office door was propped open. Inside, Emma and Pat were drinking what I assume was my coffee. That’s what I get for setting up an espresso machine in my office.
“Well, that’s over, finally” I said as I pulled the door shut behind me.
“Oh poor thing,” Emma pouted mockingly, “Had to go to one fancy breakfast with the high makamaka movers and shakers.”
“Emma, you’ve never had a moment of social anxiety in your life. You have no idea. Pat knows what I’m talking about.”
“Ugh. You couldn’t pay me enough to hang out with those corporate weasels.”
“They’re not corporate weasels, Pat. They’re our Friends in the Business Community. One of whom just gave our college a huge...hey, what is that?”
“Looks like a suitcase,” Pat said.
“Isn’t it yours?” Emma asked.
“No. I’ve never seen it before.”
Pat and Emma exchanged glances.
I edged past the suitcase to get behind my desk and dialed Serena, the dean’s secretary. No answer.
“Who else has a key to your office?” Pat asked.
The writing is still fine, the voice is good, but the story question raised here—where did the suitcase come from—was not compelling for this reader. If, for example, there was a blood stain on it, that might work. I think my advice is the same as the last time: show us something that starts later and embroils the protagonist in troubled times. The chapter continues on to introduce the characters with nary a hint of a murder or trouble ahead for the protagonist. In fact, the strange suitcase is soon left behind and not mentioned again. Seriously, try starting later in the story.
For what it’s worth.
"I'm mad at this book. Know why? Because it's one of the best I've read about crafting compelling novels, and it's telling me that I have to revise my own novel yet again. The examples are clear and unusually frequent. For example, you won't read pages of theory before being shown exactly what is meant by creating tension. If you're writing a novel you hope will sell to an agent, then to a publisher, and finally to a great many readers, Rhamey's realistic advice will help you.” Susan
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