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.
Mackenzie /strong> sends a rewrite of his first chapter of Flipped. The previous version is here. The rest of the chapter follows the break.
Please vote and comment. It helps the writer.
“Bella is going to die tonight. Do you understand?” I said to Elliot, my accomplice, on the way to Bella’s house. “Do you hae the Spaghettifier?” I asked Elliot.
He replied with a “Yes.” He knew that if he hadn’t had it, then he would await the same fate as Bella (especially since we just got to her house). “How will we open the door?” he asked and I burst into laughter.
“We have a portable black hole, so it should be pretty easy.” I replied. I used the Spaghettifier We snuck up into her bedroom. It was big, beautiful, and obnoxiously bright. It was almost as obnoxious as her.
I walked up to her bed and found a carcass. I felt her neck, there was no pulse. I couldn’t see the rise or fall of breath in her lungs. She was a doornail. What a fitting time to die though, in the dead of winter, in the dead of night. Nothing stirred and there were no crickets chirping tonight. “How do you kill someone who is already dead?” I yelled. Then I understood why her death bothered me so much. “She didn’t deserve it.” I sobbed. “She did nothing to me. Nothing!” I yelled. I walked home alone with a heavy heart in the rain alone, so, so alone. I cried myself to sleep. I dreamed about what caused me to try and murder her
It was the big test… and I bombed it. I knew I wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, but I also knew that what I lack in left brain I make up in right brain. I was fine with this (snip)
There are for sure some interesting things going on here, but ultimately I ended up on the confused side, and then the narrator starts to tell us about a dream. Little things got in my way—if it’s the dead of night, how come her bedroom was obnoxiously bright—if we’d been shown the lights were on or someone turned them on, okay, but that didn’t happen. I was willing to go along with the Spaghettifier as some kind of tool, but its name suggests children at play and not something involving a real death. So I'm not sure if I should take the reported death seriously. I’m going to assume that the “hae” instead of “have” is just a typo, though I guess it could be some kind of Scottish or Irish dialect.
For what it’s worth.
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 Mackenzie