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)
Dai sends the first chapter of Goblin Realm. Please vote—the feedback helps the writer.
Chapter 00 — Eyeballs
Day eight, they thought it was.
"Those are women, alright!"
But didn't they all hope that?
A bit closer, and…
"Girl Scouts, for crying out loud. Girl Scouts!"
Chapter 01 — Indoctrination
Day six of their abduction. They scribed the days with pencil on the jeep's fender, the point merely skidding on the ship's walls. Half asleep in the unchanging environment, they were roused by the screen coming back into action, a camera swooping down toward a small group standing in a sparsely-treed savannah—women, voluptuous and scantily clad.
The view altered to show the horizon as the women looked over their shoulders. On the peak of a low hill some hundreds of yards away, figures appeared—scrambling down the slope, leaping and capering, waving… could it be weapons? The women began to run, the spindly figures to pursue—gaining rapidly as the women became frantic.
The camera pulled back to reveal three new figures in the foreground—men wearing greenish clothes and helmets, carrying weapons with which they opened fire, gouts of flame blasting from the muzzles. The pursuing figures began to fall but many came on, approaching (snip)
Yes, but . . .
Okay, I wanted to know what was going on, and the voice and writing are strong, so I turned the page. But with the thought that it had better get to a person soon. For me, the opening six lines of unattributed dialogue were both a loss and then, after the second “chapter” opens two days earlier (I think) than the first one, I just found it confusing.
I also felt the scene-setting came up short. Too little was sketched in for me to visualize or understand where whoever it is is. How many are there? Are they in a hold? Is the ship moving? What screen? These are not story questions, they’re just points of information that, if filled in briefly, could give context and a human connection with the captives. The first 6-7 lines consumed by the incomprehensible dialogue could be used to better draw me into the scene and the story and someone.
What do you think?
For what it’s worth.
Free sample chapters—click here for a PDF
I am not a fan of most writing books because they all seem to say the same things. "Show, don't tell." "Create believable characters." "Keep your plot interesting." Rhamey doesn't just tell you what to do, he shows you with concrete examples and a humorous touch. I learned more from this book than I have from all the other books on writing I've read so far combined. Writing Mom
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