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--new: I've added a request to post the rest of the chapter.
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)
Juliet sends a first chapter of a YA novel, Satyrs. (No permission to post rest of chapter.)
My foster parents lock everything. Doors, windows, fridge, computer, knives, the marijuana stash they think we don’t know about . . . and at night, they lock my roomies and me in our bedroom.
What would happen if there was a fire?
Well, I guess we’d be toasted orphan crispies.
Where everything is locked, your job is to find the key. A key isn’t always key-shaped, though. Sometimes it’s just a twist of copper wire.
I go to bed at the usual time, set my internal alarm clock, and sleep exactly four hours. Then my eyes flutter open in the dark and I sit up, brain already ticking away. I fish out the swimsuit I’ve wadded inside my pillow, the only place safe from Foster Mom’s prying eyes. The suit is an old-fashioned one piecer with wide straps and a bottom that sags under the butt, made of some static-crazed fabric that attracts gobbets of pillow foam. A scratchy label on the back chafes my knobbly spine, but I don’t rip it off because that’s where I’ve written my name in waterproof Sharpie: Rowan Malone. So I don’t forget who I am.
I wriggle into the swimsuit, pull jeans and hoodie on over it, then tiptoe to the window. Melanie’s snoring like a rooting pig and Amanda’s doped up on cough syrup, but I can’t risk waking them. If I get caught, their only defense will be: didn’t know a thing. I schmoozle the (snip)
Good, clean writing and a likeable voice here, and something is happening . . . but how serious, in terms of tension and drama, is someone sneaking out to go swimming? The chapter that follows uses the swim to lay out a few pages of backstory. Tension and story questions do arise when she is caught by police for swimming in a mansion’s pool, but that happens 7 pages after the opening--too late to get me to turn that first page. I suggest forgoing the set-up and getting right into trouble. There's good stuff here, just get to the story asap.
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 include in your email permission to post it on FtQ. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
- Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
- And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft 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.
My editing clients talk about the work I do:
"I'm quite stunned really because your edit and advice are so utterly fantastic! I paid for an edit of a different novel a few years ago and was thoroughly disappointed, but you really hit the mark with everything you said (and you spotted straight away one of my main weaknesses: scene-setting - I can see it in my head and struggle to get it onto the page!). I was really blown away." Keris Stainton
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Flogging the Quill © 2014 Ray Rhamey, story © 2014 Juliet