ALL GONE! I have no more submissions in the flogging pillory. Submissions wanted.
Also, please pass on this link to my Kickstarter project: http://kck.st/1gbhnrF. Time is ticking away.
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)
Breanne sends the first chapter of Ketil’s Daughter, a YA fantasy novel.
Audny Ketils-daughter had only been up in the high pastures of Egil’s House for one day before little Helgi, the blacksmith’s son, came trudging up the slope with a knapsack slung over his narrow shoulders. As he climbed, he swatted at the long, luxuriant blades of grass with a stick, causing the sheep to scatter and then clump together in a surging mass.
“Stop scaring the sheep, Helgi,” Audny ordered, even though she knew he’d pay her no attention.
When Helgi drew within reach, Audny reached for the knapsack, which doubtless carried some delectable cheeses, bread, fruit and salted meats. But Helgi snatched it away, looking quite affronted as he did so. “That’s my food,” he snapped, clutching the bag close to his slight ten-year-old boy’s frame.
“What?” Audny said, her brow furrowed. “Why on earth is that food yours and not mine?”
“Halldora said to fetch you because you’re needed down at the hall. And that I’m to take over the shepherding for tonight.”
Audny blinked in surprise. “Did she say why she needed me?”
Helgi shook his head. He took a hunk of cheese out of the knapsack, crumpled down onto the hillside, lay back with his heads folded behind his head, and grinned. He reached over (snip)
Good clean writing and a likeable voice contribute to making this opening scene inviting. But there’s not much tension for me—yes, a story question of what Halldora (who we don’t know and don’t know how impacts Audny) wants arises, but with no hint of stakes or meaning to Audny. I wasn’t compelled. The three pages that follow continue the scene and do a nice job of setting the world—but, again, with little tension. On the fourth page a new scene starts. What do you think of this as the opening page? A poll follows.
Audny stormed into the hall of Egil’s House. On the outside she was angry, with her hands balled up into fists and her eyes narrowed to slits. But on the inside something akin to despair had lodged itself in the pit of her stomach, and as much as she tried to ignore it, it wasn’t going away. She had a feeling that this summoning from Halldora had something to do with the dreaded prospect of marriage.
Seeing Audny in such a black mood, the servants scattered from the main room like leaves in a headwind and took shelter in the back storage rooms.
“Come here, niece,” said Halldora. She was seated in the back of the hall next to her daughter, Sigrid. They sat with their heads together, bowed in concentration over their needlework.
Audny strode up to her aunt. “Why did you send Helgi up to take my place? I hope this has nothing to do with that nonsense about Kar Thorvaldson.” A quiver had crept into her voice. Audny hated herself for showing weakness. She dug her nails into her palms; had they been longer, they might have drawn blood.
Halldora and Sigrid looked up. They were almost mirror images of each other--long, golden tresses, fair skin flushed prettily on the apples of their cheeks, and wide-set, pale-blue eyes.
For me, this is a stronger opening. It focuses on aspect of what the story is about and conflict starts right away. However, I wonder if the subject of forced marriage isn’t a little common in stories of this sort. I urge Breanne to look deeper at starting the story at the point where Audny does something to escape this forced marriage, the point where her life really changes.
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