Submissions needed: 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)
Sandrine sends the first chapter of In Between. Please vote—the feedback helps the writer.
“Choco, here are all the details for your trip next week,” my booker has written at the top of his email. “02 Sept New York-London 10.30 pm-10.20 am.”
Alright, that’s good, I can sleep all the way through. I scroll down and make a mental note to ask my doctor for sleeping tablets. I’ve been feeling anxious lately. Arguing till 2 am with Jon doesn’t help either. I should check if there’s a yoga class tonight at my gym.
“03 Sept London-Edinburgh 11.55 am-02.35 pm.”
That’s not a bad connection. I crack open the window; the driver must have forgotten to wear deodorant. Summer time in the city is the worst. And can the driver stop talking on the phone! I don’t care if it’s hands-free, it’s annoying.
“09 Sept Edinburgh-London-Cape Town.”
Holy Moly, I’ll be dead when I arrive. There better not be any crying babies next to me, like last time. They ought to make baby formula with little whiskey drops in it. ‘Sleeping tablets!’ I type in my calendar section. I get back to Steven’s email to check the return flight after my two-day-shoot for L’Oréal, but the email keeps going with a trip to Miami. With all those miles I might be able to get Jon and I a free trip home for Christmas. He promised to come with me this year. I check the airline companies I’ve been booked on, but I don’t think they are partners. If I (snip)
The writing and voice are fine, and the scene is well set. But, for me, there’s nothing much happening here. Planning a trip isn’t exactly tension producing. And what is the story about? I read the chapter and still don’t know. The rest is about her waiting to be seen for a hair modeling assignment. So we take a cab ride and sit in a room with other models. I think this book needs to start much later, when something happens to the protagonist that causes a serious problem. I don’t really have any notes on the text, which, in my view, should not be used here anyway.
Find the inciting incident for this story and start as close to that as you can. And give us a story question on the first page. It would be fun to visit the glamorous world of a model, but only within the context of things happening that impact her life.
For what it’s worth.
Free sample chapters—click here for a PDF
“I'm a writer want-to-be working on my first novel. I've read four creative writing books and I think that Ray's book has been the most helpful and easiest to understand.” HMS
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