Submissions Needed. None in the queue for Friday. 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 list of 6 vital storytelling ingredients from my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. 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.
Evaluate the submission—and your own first page—in terms of whether or not it includes each of these ingredients, and how well it executes them. The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing because that is a must for every page, a given.
- Story questions
- Tension (in the reader, not just the characters)
Stacie sends a first chapter of Dark Places The rest of the chapter follows the break.
“She wants me to spy?” Vivienne said. She gripped Adona’s wrinkled arm.
“I don’t think it’s quite that. She just wants you to ask around.” Adona clicked her tongue. “Traitor trouble. What a shame.”
Vivienne nodded, envisioning Adona pouring over Vivienne’s letter, and grinned.
“Vi?” Adona said.
“Please don’t think I’m awful. I’m not happy about the strained relations, it’s just,” Vivienne bit her lip. “Tahna thinks I can do something. Lorelai too. I mean, they think that I can do something.” She stood up and whooped.
Vivienne felt around for her seat with her foot and then sat down. She smoothed her skirts and put out her hand for the letter. “My thanks for reading it to me Adona.”
“What did you come all this way to have me read your letter? What about your fancy companion. What are you paying her for if not to read your letters?”
Vivienne put all her attention into dusting her skirts, as if she could see any dust- as if she could see anything. “Janessa and I have quarreled.”
“Oh?” Adona said.
“Yes. Besides, I wanted to see you. I always want to see you.”
The voice is good and the writing clean, but for me there were some things missing, including setting the scene. Where are these women having their conversation? And when—on the next page Vivienne gets into a carriage, so this is a period piece of some kind, though there’s no hint. More than that, there’s no story question here, it’s all set-up. I think this needs to start later with an eye to clarity. Keep at it, a blind woman spying in older times is an interesting concept, just get to the story.
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 Stacie