Writers, send your prologue/first chapter to FtQ for a “flogging” critique. Email as an attachment.
Many of the folks who utilize BookBub are self-published, and because we hear over and over the need for self-published authors to have their work edited, it’s educational to take a hard look at their first pages. A poll follows concerning the need for an editor.
When you evaluate today’s opening page, consider how well it uses elements from the checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling.
Donald Maass, literary agent and author of many books on writing, says, “Independent editor Ray Rhamey’s first-page checklist is an excellent yardstick for measuring what makes openings interesting.”
A First-page Checklist
- It begins to engage the reader with the character
- Something is wrong/goes wrong or challenges the character
- The character desires something.
- The character takes action. Can be internal or external action: thoughts, deeds, emotions. This does NOT include musing about whatever.
- 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.
- The one thing it must do: raise a story question.
Four point seven miles to go.
I peered through the windshield at the towering evergreens and intimidating rock formations. How could anyone possibly live around here? There were no houses in sight. The only signs of life were roadkill so…okay, no signs of life then. Even the radio station had given up. At least my phone was—
The screen was still telling me to turn right in four point seven miles. Sayonara signal.
“This day gets more perfect by the minute.” It started off on the wrong foot when the battery in my alarm clock chose today to die after I’d struggled through another night of insomnia. Then I couldn’t find a matching pair of trouser socks thanks to the hungry sock monster that apparently lived in the tumble dryer in the basement of my apartment building. So now I was the proud wearer of one navy blue sock and one black sock. Close enough that the client wouldn’t notice…probably because she’d be too busy berating me for my tardiness. Without a phone signal, I couldn’t even call to let her know. I hoped she was the forgiving type. I didn’t have much information beyond her name, phone number, and address since this was to be our first time meeting.
I watched intently for signs of a right turn. Any sign. Eventually, I came upon a dirt road.
You can turn the page and read more here. Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.
This received 4.7 stars on Amazon. There are times I just want a fun read, and a cozy mystery is often a good option, especially when written with tongue in cheek. The quirky voice in this page promises that.
Was the voice enough for you? Knowing that this is a mystery, the voice was enough to get me to read on. However, the page could have been stronger. I would eliminate the following narrative:
Close enough that the client wouldn’t notice…probably because she’d be too busy berating me for my tardiness. Without a phone signal, I couldn’t even call to let her know. I hoped she was the forgiving type. I didn’t have much information beyond her name, phone number, and address since this was to be our first time meeting.
(Note: the mismatched socks are used later, so it needed to stay)
And then move this to the first page after she turns on the dirt road:
A shimmering lake came into view on my right. With looming boulders and majestic trees, it was incredibly scenic.
Except for the guy standing on the edge of the cliff, ready to jump.
If all three books are this much fun, it's a steal at "free." What do you think about the edit? Would you be more likely to turn the page with that change? If you would have, tell me in a comment and choose the “craft” option in this poll:
My books. You can read sample chapters and learn more about the books here.
Writing Craft Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling
Fantasy (satire) The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles
Mystery (coming of age) The Summer Boy
Science Fiction Hiding Magic
Science Fiction Gundown Free ebooks.