Submissions Welcome. 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.
Ellie sends the prologue and first chapter of “Absurdist/ Speculative / Philosophical Science fiction “ story, Ephemeral. The rest follows the break.
There was once a child; for simplicity and anonymity sake let's name this child Cas. Cas was like a lot of people, but was also unlike others at the same time. They were a quiet individual, but also quite social in some instances. Like everyone else, Cas strived to be different; they wanted to stand out and be seen as more than just another person in the vast universe. They wanted to inspire and motivate others and make an impact on life. Cas wanted to mean something.
Now you as a reader may be thinking that yes everyone thinks this at some point and everyone wants to be something; and this thought is correct. All people are amazing. All people are different. Everyone IS somebody. It is simply the fact that people often cannot see the truth in the blistering speed in that life goes by. The people who fight through the hardest fights will most often get the largest reward; seeming to everyone else the reward being small. But they know what they went through to get there. We can all be great; we can all leave our mark no matter how big or small. This is hoped to be soon understood.
Cas was quite sarcastic in conversations when they did talk; mostly because they loved to make others laugh. Cas loved making people laugh; it gave them a sort of feeling of accomplishment. That they, although a minuscule part of a vast world were able to make someone happy; to make someone exert a positive emotion just because of something they (snip)
The sun was shining vividly on the brisk fall evening of September 23, 2015, in Cas' hometown of Birch Falls. A very telling name since it states the towns odd abundance of birch trees. Cas liked to take walks on days like these because it made them feel quite calm; something their mind was more often than not... not. The streets were to Cas' benefit, quiet. It helped them clear their mind and to feel free from the mayhem of the world around.
"This is nice", Cas thought silently. But they couldn't get rid of the utter feeling of emptiness; the feeling of dissatisfaction with the path their life has been affixed to. I want to do something exciting and new, I want to do something that isn't of the daily cycle; I always find myself walking the streets and thinking about what I could do or thinking what can be done but I never actually get around to actually doing such actions. What's the point of living if I don't experience it myself. So many possibilities, so many paths to take yet I walk this lonely road of casualty.
Yes, life is beautiful. The world is pretty alright. Seasons, smells, people, senses, the unknown; all of these things are so beautiful and brilliant in so many ways that I cannot fathom being able to express it in a way that could describe such beauty. Technology. Science. Knowledge. Art. So many concepts and realities that can all be learnt, but simply cannot be grasped by my feeble mind. The possibilities are infinite. We could do anything (snip)
The writing and voice are strong in these opening pages, but these narratives aren’t meant for me. While understanding that there are experimental elements to this tale, I stumbled over and over again at the use of plural pronouns for Cas instead of singular. I could see no reason in what is here for doing that other than, perhaps, to conceal the gender of the character. But every use of “they” instead of “him” or “her” jarred me right out of the narrative because it never stopped feeling, well, wrong. And, grammatically speaking, it is wrong.
The other issue for me is that in neither the prologue or the chapter opening pages did much of anything happen and there were no story questions raised. In the prologue, we have some authorial musing and a description of a character, but nothing happens.
In the chapter opening, we soon dip into a lot more musing. For me, long introspections such as this don’t count as something happening. The character seems to want something in the chapter opening, to do something exciting and new, but that is not a pressing desire to me. There are no consequences suggested for doing something different, either positive or negative. I think it takes a different kind of reader than I am to get into this narrative approach.
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, prologue and chapter © 2016 by Ellie