Submissions Wanted. 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.
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?
Carolyn sends a first chapter of Bellinger Beauty. The rest of the chapter follows the break.
Images of my husband’s dead body flooded my mind as I drove down Placida Road that Florida morning on my way to meet Howard Bellinger,
Throat tight and tears burning in my eyes, I pulled to the side of the road. Shockwaves tore through me as if I’d just received the news.
Two campers found Brett in the woods not far from here. The police had given up looking for his killer. I hadn’t.
A few quick glances out my window showed me Flamingo Mist looked pretty much the same, For every stucco palace with a tile roof, swimming pool and two-acre plot, dozens of trailer parks and cracker box houses sprouted like yard mushrooms after the summer rains. For some reason, the scenery calmed me and I drove back onto the road.
Flamingo Boulevard loomed ahead. I parked at the Elk's Lodge next to a sign listing Square Five and Lulu's Crew, the bands that would be playing for the dinner dances that week. When I stepped inside the two-story stucco building, the smell of fried chicken and French fries reminded me I hadn’t eaten breakfast.
The leather-faced man behind the desk stared at my business card before he stuffed it into the pocket of his jeans. “How can I help you Miss Gale or should I call you Zoe?”
“Ms. Gale’s fine. Which way to Howard Bellinger's home?"
Good stuff here, I like the descriptions that give values to what we’re seeing, the voice, and a good story question. Well, it seems like the story question is who murdered her husband. It may still be, but that’s not clear in the chapter that follows, where it turns out that she’s a private investigator being hired to look for a missing college student. Suggestion to Carolyn: let the reader know on page one that she’s a PI. And, if the husband’s death is not the point of the story, then you might want to consider starting later when the current case is begun and if there are any consequences to Zoe for taking the case, etc. Nice work.
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 Carolyn