Writers, send your prologue/first chapter to FtQ for a “flogging” critique. Email as an attachment.
Many of the folks who utilize BookBub are self-published, and because we hear over and over the need for self-published authors to have their work edited, It seemed to me that it could be educational to take a hard look at their first pages. If you don’t know about BookBub, it’s a pretty nifty way to try to build interest in your work. The website is here.
I’m mostly sampling books that are offered for free—BookBub says that readers are 10x more likely to click on a book that’s offered for free than a discounted book. Following is the first page and a poll. Then my comments follow, along with the book cover, the author’s name, and a link so you can take a look for yourself if you wish. At Amazon you can click on the Read More feature to get more of the chapter if you’re interested. There’s a later poll concerning the need for an editor.
This book opens with a prologue and then the first chapter, so we’ll take a look at both to see what works. Next are the first 17 manuscript lines of the prologue in a book billed as a mystery, Chimera. The first chapter follows. Should this author have hired an editor?
The night sky over Abbeyford was spangled with a million little explosions of light; red, blue, gold and green lit up the dark clouds before falling and fading into oblivion. In the town below, the crowds thronged the pavements and the open space of the fairground that lay to the north of the town park gardens. Along the high street came a fantastic beast, jointed in three places; a giant, scaled snake with huge yellow eyes. Children yelled and pointed, and adults clapped and cheered at the sight. Beneath the snake costume, fifteen sweating men held up the frame that supported its body. The night air carried the acrid tang of cordite from the fireworks and billowed with smoke from chestnuts cooking on braziers. It was thick with the greasy smell of the fast food vans offering chips and hot dogs and candy floss. Thumping bass music blared from the funfair on the park ground itself, pierced by the shrieks and delighted yells of those on the fast rides and the bumper cars. Abbeyford was enjoying its annual pagan festival; for one night in late September the town celebrated the myth and legend of the Abbeyford Wyrm, a giant snake-like creature once rumoured to have lived in the woods and forests surrounding the town.
Olly Chandler had something more than the festival on his mind. He and his girlfriend, Mia Smith, strolled through the fairground, hand in hand. Mia wanted to go on the Ghost Train but Olly scoffed. “Got something even better than that,” he said, pulling Mia close. “A quiet place just for us and some decent weed. How about that?”
“This is freakin’ amazing!” Jay shouted in Kate’s ear. “I can’t believe you’ve lived here for four years and never once been to this festival.”
“I know, I know.” Kate was thinking the same thing herself. She’d never seen the normally fairly quiet streets of Abbeyford so busy, packed with a shouting, laughing, gesticulating crowd; from tiny babies in prams to pensioners gamely tottering on their walking sticks or regarding the festivities from wheelchairs. “I always thought it was – well – a bit – a bit…”
“A bit what?” asked Hannah, Kate’s best friend who was visiting from Brighton. Hannah’s husband, Dan, was standing with his hands in his jeans pockets, a bemused expression on his face. Kate knew how he felt.
“I don’t know. A bit…fuddy duddy. Like Morris dancing and the W.I.”
“Jesus,” said Jay, grinning. “I would have thought something like the Women’s Institute was right up your street. You’re hardly rock and roll, are you, Sis?”
Kate slapped his arm. “Compared to you, no. But then compared to you, the most debauched of the Roman emperors aren’t very rock and roll.”
That wasn’t actually very fair, as she knew full well that Jay had calmed down a lot over the last few years. But he was her little brother - teasing was her prerogative. The main reason (snip)
Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.
This book received a strong 4.6 stars on Amazon. The writing and voice are fine, and both pieces start with a live scene and something is happening. But what?
In the prologue, we get a loooooog description of a carnival. It needn’t have taken that much, most of us have an idea of what a carnival is like. All that happens is that we meet a guy who wants to get stoned with his girlfriend. Is there a hint of mystery? Of anything going wrong? Any trouble for Olly and Mia? Not in the story. Oh, I know that readers expect something will go wrong, but an expectation is hardly compelling, in my view. By the way, really long blocks of text such as the first paragraph are real barriers to readers. Break it up, give our eyes some white space.
The first chapter takes its time in introducing four characters (in just three paragraphs) and they just talk about what’s going on. Hint of mystery? Trouble ahead? Nope. For me, neither earned a page turn. Too bad, I was really looking for something to read. Poll on need for editor below.
Poll: what are your thoughts about this author needing an editor? Remember that the goal of the first page is to get you to turn it. If the narrative didn’t do that, then it didn’t work the way it needed to.
My books. You can read sample chapters and learn more about the books here.
Writing Craft Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling
Fantasy(satire) The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles
Mystery(coming of age) The Summer Boy
Science Fiction Hiding Magic
Science Fiction GundownFree ebooks.