Submissions Welcome. 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.
Download a free PDF copy here.
Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of this list before submitting to the Flogometer. I use it on my own work.
A First-page Checklist
- It begins engaging the reader with the character
- Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
- The character desires something.
- The character 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.
Caveat: a strong first-person voice with the right content can raise powerful story questions and create page turns without doing all of the above. A recent submission worked wonderfully well and didn't deal with five of the things in the checklist.
Also, if you think about it, the same checklist should apply to the page where you introduce an antagonist.
Georgia sends the first chapter of Sex, Love, Knife, Spoons
Please vote and comment. It helps the writer.
I’m trying a new poll approach. It occurred to me that asking if a narrative is “compelling” is a bit abstract. A sterner test is to ask if you would pay good money for to turn the page. With 50 chapters in a book that costs $15, each chapter would be “worth” 30 cents.
So that’s the question: would you pay that much to read the rest of the chapter? I won’t charge you, of course, but that’s the hurdle. Don't let genre/content affect your vote, decide on the basis of storytelling strength.
Please tell me in comments if you like/don't like this approach. Now for the first page:
Valerie saw herself as one of the fun moms, and it was a lot of pressure. On school mornings, she served up caterpillar ice cream sundaes with gummy worm antennae. She ordered improbable toys from midnight infomercials. She kept a bubblegum machine decorated like a Christmas tree in the living room. When summer vacation came, she and the only object for her endless self-reflection, Anna, slathered themselves in baby oil and sat on beach chairs in the front yard, drinking chilled Slim Fast.
“You never know when love might come along,” she told her daughter, smiling at the meter inspector as he disappeared around the side of the house. Anna put aside Farmer Budd's Seed and Flower Catalogue and watched her mom transform into someone magnetic and interesting, though she had her doubts about the meter man. She reached over and adjusted her mom's hat so it sat at a perky angle.
When Anna grew up and came home with not a first-mistake boyfriend (preferably a young man with a penchant for Wranglers, cowboy boots, and honky-tonks on the turnpike), but a child-sized excellence award from her woodworking class, Valerie tried to recall actually giving birth to her daughter and remembered nothing but cherry popsicles and no-skid socks.
For years she examined Anna, searching for signs she belonged to someone much (snip)
The voice is likeable and the writing clean, always good to see here at FtQ. But I had issues. The point of view was confusing—we seem to be in Valerie’s pov at first, but then it shifts to Anna’s (she watches her mom) and then back to Valerie. A bit of head-hopping on the first page isn’t a strong invitation to proceed. Beyond that, though, there’s not much in the way of story questions here, nor a sign of a story. It serves as setup wrought with some charm, but that’s about it. Anna later goes off to France to attend a cooking school, and I’m guessing that’s where the story is. But it doesn’t seem to be on the first page. Think about it, Georgia, and start your story where something happens to Anna that forces her to react and take some kind of risk to set things right.
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 © 2015 Ray Rhamey, story © 2015 Georgia