Submissions Wanted. Just one 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 checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. 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. Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of this list before submitting to the Flogometer.
A First-page Checklist
- It begins connecting the reader with the protagonist
- Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
- What happens is dramatized in an immediate scene with action and description plus, if it works, dialogue.
- What happens moves the story forward.
- What happens has consequences for the protagonist.
- The protagonist desires something.
- The protagonist does something.
- There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
- It happens in the NOW of the story.
- Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
- Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
- What happens raises a story question—what happens next? or why did that happen?
Two weeks ago I posted two possible first pages for a sequel to The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles. I’m aiming to craft a first page that engages you with story via story questions and to also begin engaging you with a character.
That exercise gave me good food for thought, and I thank you. Of course, giving a writer food for thought produces more thought, so I’m back with a third alternative. I’ll probably stop doing this after you tell me what you think of this—I have a whole rest of the novel to write.
First, though, for those who missed the post a couple of weeks ago or want to refresh themselves on what came before, you can return to those first two first pages by clicking here. But please come on back and critique the new one. Also for those who missed the first round, the rest of the chapter is posted after the break. I could use comments on that, too, if you can spare a minute.
Caveat: for those from the first round, there’s new stuff here but also some holdovers from then--interestingly, the tense changed from past to present. See what you think. A couple of polls follow. Here goes the first page, maybe, of The Hollywood Unmurders . . .
I hate to admit this, but sometimes my basic cat modus operandi—you know, I-am-an-independent-entity-who-doesn’t-give-a-meow-what-you-think—is, er, less than helpful. Like tonight, when Meg opened the door to let me out for a prowl. She ruffled my fur and said, “Be careful, Patch. They say a coyote never met a cat it didn’t like.” I rolled my eyes.
So now, an hour later, I’m hunkered down behind a scrub oak beneath the H in the HOLLYWOOD sign, straining to hear movement from over by the W where I last saw the coyote. I wouldn’t be worried if it was a dog following me—who worries about a creature that devotes eons of evolution to mastering tail-wagging and drooling?
But stalked by a sharp-toothed killer with fillet of cat on its mind? That pretty full moon up above has turned into a spotlight and there’s new meaning to the words “snack attack.”
Oh, I’ll have my revenge if he eats me—noshing on a vampire kitty-cat will give him a terminal case of indigestion. Unfortunately, by then I won’t be in any condition to say gotcha.
Will I end up an immortal lump in his belly after my vee virus turns him into a vampire, thereby giving “hairball” a whole new meaning? Disgusting. Not to mention really, really creepy. Yeah, being undead isn’t much of a life, but I’d like to hold onto what little I have.
I slink low, belly to the ground, and peer beneath a branch.
For those who reviewed the first two versions and this one, please give your thoughts via this poll. The two earlier versions are here. And many thanks!
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.
Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of the first-page checklist before submitting to the Flogometer.
Flogging the Quill © 2014 Ray Rhamey