Submissions Needed—None Left in the Queue for Next Week. 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.
Jared sends the first chapter of The Third Cryogenic War. The rest of the chapter follows the break.
Please vote and comment. It helps the writer.
Death wasn’t what I expected. No heaven. No hell. I figured either would be warm—just one noticeably more so. And if neither existed, I assumed I wouldn’t either. Death would be oblivion. Instead, I remained conscious, stranded in a dark, lonely abyss with only my thoughts to keep me company. But most of all, I was bitterly cold.
I’d been this way a long time. A really long time. Not that I could keep track of days or years or millennia, but at this point, I would have welcomed oblivion. Anything but this.
Funny thing is, I don’t even remember dying.
“This one looks promising.” A distorted, muffled voice slipped through the darkness, the first sound I’d heard in ions.
“Hello?” I tried to shout, but managed no sound.
“He’d better be.” A second voice. Deeper than the first.
The men sounded as though they were old records being played on a slow track.
“Caleb Tillman.” A third voice. Female. Smooth like an angel. She knew my name.
“It’s me! Where are you?” I shouted. Still no sound.
“It says he was frozen on October 9th, 2016,” the woman said.
“Really?” the first man said. “That’s old. Maybe even one of the first.”
I like the voice, and the wry sense of humor in this character (one place being “noticeably more” warm) made him likeable. His situation is interesting, death being an eternal interest to we mortal beings. So there’s a strong “what happens next” story question for me, so I turned the page.
Just one note: it’s “eons,” not “ions.” There are similar errors in the rest of the chapter, but this is a first draft. Still, Jared, you’ll need an editor before you send this out. Nonetheless, I would love to read the rest of the story.
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 © 2016 Ray Rhamey, chapter © 2016 by Jared