Only 2 chapters left in the pillory. 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)
Jim sends this first chapter. Please vote—the feedback helps the writer.
The antiseptic walls of this unfamiliar room squeezed him from ten feet away. The simple space contained a set of twin beds, a sink, and a door. No window. Micah occupied one of the beds, and the curvature of the blankets on the other bed suggested that one also had an inhabitant.
On Micah’s wrist, a piece of surgical tape was covering a cotton swab. He removed the tape and the swab, and a dab of blood formed over a hole in his wrist. A throbbing at the base of his neck arose, which connected to a throbbing in his skull and down to a twinge in his chest. He lifted his blue hospital-issued shirt to study the large circular bruise on his chest.
The bruise spoke to him in jabs of pain any time he moved his upper body. Micah had no idea how it got there. He had a vague memory of the first seven or eight beers, but nothing after that. Last night was an unintelligible mess of images and sounds.
Micah sat up, and the bruise on his chest screamed, forcing the air from his lungs.
Next to his bed, his vomit-stained shirt and tie lay neatly folded. Must have been what he was wearing when he came in last night. He reached into the chest pocket of his shirt, and sure enough, he found a copy of his unfinished poem. Micah read it again, for the millionth time, but the remnants of alcohol sloshing in his brain blurred the words.
He slipped on the edge of the mattress and fell onto the floor, and yelped as he hit the cold (snip)
For me, two issues in particular got in the way. First, a certain amount of overwriting, which can be overcome. The second was a lack of story question, of something happening that creates a problem for the character (other than falling out of bed).
Until the last page, the rest of the chapter was backstory and set-up. Then came something that did have a good, strong story question. Take a look and give a vote.
At the impound lot, after being assured that his car was not too damaged to drive, he wrote a sizeable check to have it released. The lot man escorted him to the section of the garage where his car was parked. Micah examined the back, and found no damage other than the previously-accumulated whiskey dings. The sides were good, aside from some paint scrapes, but the front had crumpled into a concave depression. That was the telephone pole. The right wheel well had bent and the driver’s side headlight was dangling from its socket. That was the ditch.
“Lucky you’re still alive, son. But you’re going to want to get that light fixed,” the lot man said. “You could get pulled over for that.”
Micah signed the release form and watched the lot man waddle back to his office. He sat down on the concrete in front of his car, and marveled at the chaos of his own actions. Although he had driven drunk hundreds (or maybe thousands) of times, he disliked the creepy uncertainty of not knowing what had happened the last time he was behind the wheel.
Then he noticed something dangling from underneath the bumper. A piece of torn hose, possibly, or a string. He lowered to the ground to tug it loose. It wasn’t string, but a shoelace.
Micah pulled on the shoelace, and as the bumper squeaked and cried, it gave way, then Micah found himself holding a black and white women’s Adidas track shoe.
Now there's a story question.
For what it’s worth.
Free sample chapters—click here for a PDF
“This book has some of the most helpful writing advice I've encountered in quite a while, illustrated by copious--and I mean copious--examples. Ray doesn't pull punches, and his illustrations have real-world wording at times, but it's truly like having an editor on your bookshelf. I definitely recommend it.” Richard
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