If you’ve benefited from the floggings I do, please visit my Kickstarter project—it’s a truly fun and educational game. Pass it on. Thanks.
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)
Alison sends the first chapter of Savage Grace, in the genre of Greek mythology
The ash tree cried under the stars. Ursula sniffed at it cautiously from the mouth of her cave. The great bear had never heard a tree cry before, let alone her very own scratching post and provider of shade.
But it wasn’t the guardian of her lair that wept. The cry came from the bottom of the tree, from something nestled in the thick roots that emerged from the trunk and plunged into the ground. Something new. Something vaguely round and lumpy. Was it a small boulder? A giant mushroom? No. Neither rocks nor mushrooms wept. The bear approached, more curious than wary. The round lumpiness howled like a cub. Ursula buried her snout in it. Yes, it was a cub, with a squashed face, a pale little nose, and no fur. It was bundled in a shell of straw, not unlike an upside-down turtle. It cried. It smelled of other.
Ursula drew back. She’d smelled this smell before, the otherness of those who walk on their hind legs. She’d smelled it on a flattened boulder in the valley, a boulder covered with flowers and laden with pouches of meat, though such offerings only appeared under a bright moon, and tonight the sky was dark. Were others here?
The bear sniffed. No. The scent ran away into the forest.
The other cub cried. This was the crying that had denied Ursula the sweet bliss of early winter’s sleep. Not her two newborns, only hours old, suckling at her engorged teats. Not her belly, (snip)
This is one of the more unique chapters sent to FtQ. Good, clean writing, an immediate scene, and a new and interesting character. There’s just one teensy technical slip, a small step out of the bear’s POV with “The great bear . . .” which is from an external point of view. This opening does the job for me story-question-wise: I wanted to find out what happened to the new “cub,” so I turned the page. The rest of the chapter is the rearing of the new cub through a few years, quickly done. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t see the beginning of the story from the cub’s point of view—it’s a girl named Ata by the bear. But I’d like to.
For what it’s worth.
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