Submissions needed, none in the queue. 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.
Glenn sends the prologue and first chapter of The Violin Maker. The rest of the submission follows the break.
White blinding snow pelted the glass, piling as fast as a tiny space was kept clear by the laboring wiper blades. Two tire ruts in the thickening snow, barely showed as streaks of gray in white. Beyond the highway pavement, the sheer cliff-fall edge vanished in a swirl of white-out and barely seen black night. He saw his target now, a slow moving station wagon riding low in the thick snow just entering a sharp curve ahead.
"Hail Mary, full of Grace . . . pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen." Reciting his Rosary, he shifted the semi-tractor up into third, gaining speed as the heavy truck tire-chains dug into the snow covered pavement. Faster now into fourth, and then finally with increasing speed and momentum, the diesel engine roared into the highest gear he could manage in the short stretch of road left to him.
Plunging fast down the steep, sharply twisting road like a massive toboggan, it was all he could do to keep the semi-tractor and its heavy trailer on the snow covered pavement. But that didn't matter as his mission would soon be complete, with these enemies of the Church destroyed. His confession had been heard, his sins absolved. Soon he would be in the arms of the Blessed Virgin of Fatima.
Bright beams of light pierced the family car, as the roaring sound of accelerating metal-mass enveloped and suddenly crushed it. These were the last things the two adults and the small child heard ((snip)
I recall the very moment my life and what I knew of it, my entire world, changed forever. As fresh now, if it was yesterday. I was Joseph Kyle . . . before the universe shifted, before I saw that violin for the very first time. Afterwards . . . nothing, not me, nor my world, was ever the same again.
Flashes of fire sparkled in the beautiful golden varnish, as the ancient violin slowly passed from hand to hand down the long table. Time for me crawled. . . it seemed to take so very long to reach me. Scattered rays of weak April sunlight reflected and flashed from the surface of the illuminated, gem-like wood. Though weak, the light hitting the varnish produced magnified sparks of fire-light, that caught my eyes and almost blinded me, as it was passed my way.
There was something about this violin, so very strange, so different from the others that I could not quite define or understand. Somehow, it was calling to me, like the sirens of Greek mythology. But where were the rocks, was I about to be dashed apart? Was it just the bright shining glowing iridescence of the varnish, the sensuous curves of its back and belly, or what? It felt like some powerful presence had just entered the room, when this violin had been brought in. Waiting for my chance to examine it further, my heart was beating faster, my breathing becoming shallow, and I was filled with a sharp prickly anticipation.
My twenty-four fellow students and I, from The American Violin Making School, were on a field trip to see the finest collection of Italian String Musical Instruments in the world. We had driven (snip)
The prologue and its intense action scene raised a strong-enough story question for me to turn the page even though the narrative needs editing—note the repetition of “snow covered pavement” and the fact that the truck’s chains would dig into the snow, not the pavement.
The chapter opening, though, was almost all interior and setup. The long, long description of the wonderfulness of the violin slowed the pace to a halt. If you introduced the violin and setting briefly and then got to the last paragraph of this chapter, then I think you’d have an opening page. As it is, this one gets a no from me.
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 © 2016 Ray Rhamey, prologue and chapter © 2016 by Glenn