Submissions wanted. 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)
Chris sends the first chapter of Suicide Pact, an urban fantasy. Please vote—the feedback helps the writer.
One power of Death I’ve never understood is its ability to turn sinners into saints. Uncle Frank was an asshole. After he jumped from his rooftop, people at his wake talked like the man had been their best friend. But even he didn’t deserve that kind of end. Nobody does.
I wasn’t expecting Aunt Liz to make an appearance at his funeral. Uncle Frank’s first wife was tall and imposing. I knew her as strong-willed and confident, so it was disconcerting to see her breaking into tears with every passing glance at the casket. I swear she nearly broke a rib hugging me.
A week later, she took her own life.
In his white cassock, Father Yeung was a dove preaching to a flock of ravens. His gentle sermon lulling me into a near-trance despite my ill-fitting suit and the hard pew. I didn’t know my aunt very well, but I tried to be attentive. My frail mother was the Catholic; I was just there for her sake. A hand to hold, a dispenser of tissues. But there was something in the air that was making me shiver, like a cold breeze blowing down my back. That was unlikely – my tie was far too tight for that, and the stuffy church already had the heat cranked up.
By the time we brought her out to the grave site, the sunny Friday afternoon had been blanketed in a cool, thick fog. The wind whispering through the autumn leaves was strangely loud, buzzing in the back of my mind like static from a nearby TV. Something wasn’t right.
Good voice, good writing were almost strong enough to get me to turn this page, but I wasn’t actually compelled, which is the challenge it must meet. While the backstory is interesting stuff, I think it could be a little shorter, and the info about his mother wouldn’t be missed. There was a clarity “blur” that would be easy to fix—because we had been reading about Uncle Frank, somehow the fourth paragraph, the one that starts with Father Yeung, seemed to me like it was still on Uncle Frank. But it was at the service for Aunt Liz. I think opening the paragraph with something that transitioned us to Liz’s service would be helpful.
Even more helpful, I think, would be to tighten the first page in order to get the following paragraph onto the page. It was next at the top of page 2. See if you think adding this would have made a difference and give a vote.
Even the eidolon seemed agitated. The Afterworld’s infinitesimal spirits normally just sort of float around, flickering in and out of existence like subatomic particles in a vacuum, whisking everything away moment by moment. That day, I noticed them drifting off into the mist. It was a slow current, but I could feel the tug, like icy fingers reaching out and trailing down my spine. Necromancers have an eidolon of their own, their animus, which serves as their link to the Afterworld. I call mine Spot. Even it reacted to the pull, and I had to mentally keep it close. I’d never felt anything like it.
For what it’s worth.
Free sample chapters—click here for a PDF
“As an aspiring author in the Internet age, I thought there was enough information out there in the blogosphere to provide me with everything I needed for my arsenal. Boy, was I wrong. I wish that I had purchased Flogging the Quill months ago. Had I bought the book when I first learned about it, I'm confident it would have saved me a tremendous amount of time and effort in the crafting, writing, and rewriting of my first novel.” Shannon
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