Man, this has been a week of computer and Internet travails for FtQ. First was the days and days of outage last week because of a denial of service attack on the host company. Then there was the strange sound my hard drive made when it wouldn’t boot up—am now working off of backup and the repair shop is getting the hard drive up and running (and replaced). And now the email address I use for FtQ isn’t responding anymore and I was sent a warning for spamming by the ISP company—some asshole has hijacked my site/email address and causing problems. Sheesh! Yet what is there to do but keep on keepin’ on?
To make up for the fact that, in the midst of this chaos, I forgot to do a flogging last Friday I’ll do three this week—but that’s just one away from the end of the line unless more folks step up.
Submissions needed—just ONE left in the queue after this week.
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)
Jill sends a rewrite of the first chapter of Get Up Eight. The first submission is here. The rest of the chapter continues below the fold.
So I’m in this hollow tree with Sesh and she hands me a golden bullet.
And the most amazing thing is not that the tree is so freezin’ huge we could do jumping jacks without touching the trunk. The most amazing thing is also not that the bullet turns into a mirror, or that I look in the mirror and see Macy Falk’s brain, or that the mirror then explodes into a million pieces.
The most maximally amazing thing is that Sesh is not gouging out my eyes or delivering lethal straight punches to my internal organs. She’s just standing there, crying.
Just to be clear, it’s not amazing that she’s crying. Given that it’s been less than a year since her father and sister were brutally murdered practically in front of her eyes by a crazed assassin, you’d expect her to be crying.
But you’d also expect her to be wreaking maximal havoc on me. Given that my dad was the attorney who defended the brutal, crazed assassin murderer.
You see the problem.
So far, Sesh has ignored me, like she ignores everyone else here. And that’s better than the “accidents” arranged for me by Whit and Rita and the rest of my oh-so-benevolent classmates, who know Keeper Sam will get them back for it but don’t seem to care.
You can’t blame them.
Very nice voice and clean writing do a good job of raising story questions, so I read on. I will say a couple of things, though—I felt the reference to “Keeper Sam” was wasted because I have no idea of what/who Keeper Sam is and what his relationship to the story is. Either give us the information in the context or leave it out until it comes to play in the story. The second thing is that, for me, the rest of the chapter didn’t do what it needed to do—put the character into some kind of situation where he must act or suffer harm of some kind. In other words, it ends with no conflict and no real story questions with meaningful stakes for the character. I suggest you read it (it’s quite short) and give your comments. As literary agent Kristin Nelson says, “Good writing isn’t enough.”
The chapter continues after the fold.
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.
Flogging the Quill © 2014 Ray Rhamey, story © 2014 Jill
That’s my dad there, in italics. Thanks, Dad. You’ve been so helpful already, so willing to become the country’s Second Most Hated Person (after Macy Falk, of course), so unselfishly refusing to hand off Falk’s case to another attorney. Specifically, a single, childless attorney.
Yes, I know, you didn’t realize the whole Most Hated thing would extend to your family, you’re so sorry, you had no idea our friendly local terrorists would pound on Randy and dislocate his shoulder just for being my best friend (which he isn’t anymore, thanks to you) or scrawl “FALK YOU RHINO RODGERS” two stories high across the front of the high school.
We can’t blame them. No, of course not. We disdainfully chortle at the mere notion of blame. Who could possibly blame Mr. Deep Scratchy Voice for threatening to “shove your husband’s war-hero gun barrel” down mom’s throat if she said one more supportive word about you defending Macy Falk? (Yes, I heard the message. Mom ran to turn it off but I ran faster.)
Obviously, it was Scratchy Voice’s chanceability web making that call. But such a very difficult concept. So few understand. Which is why you had to take Macy Falk’s case, of course. No other attorney has your expertise in the Original Innocence defense…those poor terrorists, born to parents they didn’t choose, genes and circumstances they couldn’t control blah blah chanceability blah blah that’s why we can’t blame them…
But Dad, before you say …so we will have to change them, I just want to tell you: NO. WE WILL NOT. No matter how hard we try. You defended the murderer of Andy Sessions, our most beloved national hero—probably even more beloved than Ruler Morales.
That puts us in a position of weakness. And the weaker people cannot change the stronger people because the stronger people laugh at them and spit on them except when ignoring them.
Also, “the stronger people” includes everyone in the Temporarily Disunited States of America except for you, mom and me. That’s one hundred and twenty million against three.
But enough about my dad. Back to the tree and the golden bullet and my dream. Yes, it was a dream. Sorry. I know it’s stupid to start with a dream, but as you will see, this dream turns out to be pretty freezin’ important—and not just for the obvious reason.
The obvious reason appeared shortly after I burst into the darkness gasping, like a drowning person yanked to safety, wild fears streaming from me because of Macy Falk’s brain and the exploding mirror.
Where the hell was I? I grasped at familiar sounds: Tracker’s sheets rustling on the bunk below, Michael’s wheezy snore across the room.
Right. Calm down. You’re okay. You’re at the Crystal Creek School of Benevolent Leadership. You’re on a sweat-soaked mattress. Your best friend is thrashing in his sleep beneath you. The most famous, beautiful, depressed girl in the country is in the girls dorm on the other side of the tower, dreaming about which of your lungs to rip out first.
Yes. Reality. Much better.
I lay back down and closed my mouth, trying to quiet my gasps and slow my heart as the simmering ingredients of my nightmare coalesced (can you tell I used to cook a lot back home?) and I got this unexpectedly maximal feeling. Weird. Was it the part about standing so close to Sesh? I stirred and tasted the feeling, sorting flavors on my tongue like a master chef.
No. Something else. I clawed through the Macy Falk muck…and something glinted.
A bullet that turned into a mirror. A Mind Changer. My breathing stopped.
I knew where to find one.
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