Submissions Needed—none in the queue for next 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--they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.
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)
Aleena sends the opening chapter of Fraven Ends , which looks like a YA fantasy to me.
There were seven of us, at first. All young, late teens or early twenties. Long enough past schooling age to be called men when the elders were pleased with our contribution to the tribe, young enough to be called boys when they were not. And we knew what they would call us if they saw us meeting together in the clearing just over four miles out from the encampment-- passing flasks of ale among us and a spread of various maps between us as we sat near a fire that crackled into the crisp autumn air-- boys. But we thought we were men.
Our people were quiet. Peace was our golden rule, one we learned as soon as we could talk. Do not bother others and they will not bother you. Do not treat others with contempt. Do not retaliate any evil and your enemy will lose interest. Do not engage in violence of any kind. Do not live for selfish gain. Do not use your gifts for your own advantage. Do not feel jealousy. Do not hate. Do not disrespect. Do not. Do not...
This was not peace. This was enablement.
That is what I told my friends. First Oakley, whom I found had been silently harboring the same sentiment. Encouraged by his reaction, I confided in Cyrus, receiving a positive response. Soon, our little group grew with the addition of Elan, Rinnal, Jacob, and Morvan.
Each agreed—in Morvan’s case, only after a full-blown and, ironically, nearly violent argument—that our druid people were being taken advantage of and oppressed by the humans of (snip)
The writing is strong, and I like the voice. Aleena is approaching this fantasy story in a fairly traditional way—introducing the world. However, nothing much is happening, nor does it in the rest of the chapter. She spells out an interesting world with Druids who are not human, apparently, but have magic, and oppressive humans.
But it’s all set-up, and no actual jeopardy or story questions arise in the opening page or the chapter. I suggest you start much closer to the inciting event, the place the actual story starts happening to the character. The background material can be woven in as the protagonist deals with what happens. One caution: this first page introduces a lot of uncommon names. In my view, the reader will not be able to absorb them. And introducing a flood of characters can overwhelm. If you can trim it down to one or two, that would be better. It sounds like there’s a good story ahead, and I’d turn the page if we started with that—story.
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 Aleena