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.
Christina sends the first chapter of Aloft. The rest of the chapter follows the break.
Please vote and comment. It helps the writer.
The wind whistled outside the castle, and the halls were cool despite the late summer sun. Captain Graze was wary of the unusual weather. Anything out of the ordinary made her wary: it was her job. She stood beside the king’s bedroom door, trying not to stare at His Grace as he wrote a letter at his desk. He was the only moving thing in the room, after all.
“Well that’s no good,” he muttered to himself. “Tornadoes? I think not.” Graze pretended she hadn’t heard. Pretending not to be there was a crucial part of her job description.
King Jonovan Greydanus stood up, threw his cloak on, and strode from his bedchambers. Used to his silent way, Graze hastened to follow several paces behind. In the hall, four bens in identical shining armor quit leaning against the wall to surround the king and his whipping cloak. From her vantage in the rear, Graze could survey everybody.
Captain Graze had an earthmaster’s tight, steady swagger under her plate armor. The sword on her left hip, Cambrian steel, had been a gift from His Grace when she was raised to captain. On the right she wore the traditional Titanium Guard club; this one in particular was Eramoan tungsten, and took various shapes in her hand as easily as sculpting clay: a spear, a shortsword, a pair of daggers. She was one of the few earthmasters in the realm who could wield any metal, even lead. Swords and arrows couldn’t touch her. She was Captain for a reason.
The handsome stone entrance hall echoed their steps and the cold clanking of armor. (snip)
Another day at the office. Nicely written, this chapter has the style and voice of epic fantasy. You know what sort of story you’re in for, and that’s all to the good. However, while I know that a certain amount of world-building is both expected and necessary in fantasy, my feeling is that this is all setup. And, in fact, this opening page has little to do with where the story appears to be heading at the end of the chapter.
In looking for a story question on this page that will make me wonder what will happen next, I didn’t find one. We learn about the captain and her abilities, but we don’t see them in action. Nor does she appear to face any troubles ahead. It’s just another day at the office, and I wasn’t very interested.
I do think the world and the nature of the magic here are promising, and Christina has fully imagined it with good writing. I urge you to consider starting the story with, perhaps, the second chapter. You can work in the world stuff as something happens that causes the captain to act in her own behalf, not just that of the prince. In fact, you did a good job of showing/explaining her magical abilities when she chases after the prince. If you can do that here, you can do it later on. 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 © 2015 Ray Rhamey, story © 2015 Christina