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?
Margaret sends a first chapter of The Lore Keepers.
A handful of dirt-encrusted fingers swatted irritably at the straggle of hair that undermined even a token tribute to tidiness. A tattered sleeve, threadbare along its edges, shifted to the more pressing task of suppressing a sneeze, which would have ended any hope for continued stealth and concealment. It was the disquieting sound of the stable's side door opening that held the boy to the upper rafter as effectively as any mortar could have.
The child balancing precariously on the rough beam was nondescript at best. Of an indeterminate age, and possessing an abundance of hair that overshadowed the features of his face, his small slender build could mislead many into mistaking him for a damsel – only, the stables were not typically the provinces of women.
In many respects his footing was little different from that of the stray dogs wandering in the yard in hopes of finding a forgotten morsel, and as such, he was often the recipient of clouts and kicks from those who considered themselves his superiors. To those who had the power to curb the abuse, his plight went unobserved. If it is true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, it was not in this wisp of a boy's character to make a sound, not even a whimper. He was as easily brushed away and forgotten as the motes of dust that had been roused in response to his recent furtive movements in the upper reaches of the timber and stone stable.
He was called Paidyn, a designation assigned to him like the tunic upon his back. It was a (snip)
This elegant writing and distant point of view is consistent with what I think of as an earlier form of epic fantasy, though that’s not to say that fine stories are not still written and published in this vein—it’s just not the more active sort of narrative that many have become accustomed to. For readers who like a leisurely read, I think this story will work well. In considering the test put to first pages here at FtQ, this one doesn’t do much of raising a story question. The chapter that follows also takes its time with generous description of the area and the stables (I’ll confess to beginning to skip large parts of that). A story does seem to be in the offing later on, but the role of Paidyn isn’t clear at all—he serves as a way to overhear a plot against the king. For me, this was an “almost” where the voice was strong enough to interest me in a second page—perhaps.
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 Margaret