by Ray Rhamey
Submissions sought.Get fresh eyes on your opening page. Submission directions below.
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. Directions for submissions are below—they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.
Before you rip into today’s submission, consider this checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling.
Donald Maass,, literary agent and author of many books on writing, says, “Independent editor Ray Rhamey’s first-page checklist is an excellent yardstick for measuring what makes openings interesting.”
A First-page Checklist
- It begins to engage the reader with the character
- Something is wrong/goes wrong or challenges the character
- The character desires something.
- The character takes action. Can be internal or external action: thoughts, deeds, emotions. This does NOT include musing about whatever.
- 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.
- The one thing it must do: raise a story question.
Jared sends the first chapter of a romantic comedy Her First Rodeo. Here are the first 17 lines. Tara decided not to share the rest of the chapter (too bad, it’s fun).
I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry, or vomit from the stench of the cow field next to my rented convertible. Instead, I wiggled my cleavage into position and shoved the sunglasses higher on my nose, watching the officer in my mirror saunter back to the horse he’d pulled me over on. While in full cowboy get up, discount-store ten gallon hat included.
Fan-frigging-tastic. Trapped in the boondocks till who knew when. No, I knew how long I was stuck in the middle of nowhere North Carolina. I was there until someone tracked me down and dragged me back home. Which would be too soon if I was popped for blowing a stop sign in a town where I’d seen like two other cars.
The cop made it to his horse and bent forward. Okay, stupid outfit or not, the chaps did highlight a seriously sweet rear view.
He reached into a flap on the horse’s saddle and my heart stuttered. A nice ass certainly didn’t make a nice guy. He hadn’t been wearing a real gun belt, but it didn’t mean he wasn’t packing elsewhere. The quick flash of a badge didn’t prove he was legit, either. Although, his drawl screamed good old southern boy. But who knew, maybe the Philly mob was into outsourcing. I wasn’t going to stick around and ask.
I shot up in my seat, put the car in drive and floored it.
Not far down the road the piglet sign Aunt Lucinda had told me about appeared and I cut (snip)
A sassy, fun voice and strong writing make this opening scene come to life. The scene is set, and something has clearly gone wrong for the protagonist (her name is Victoria, and it would be good to figure out a way to get the name on the first page, but I don’t think it’s necessary here).
The narrative very efficiently adds more trouble to her future with the notion of being tracked down and dragged back home. But that could be better; we learn on page two that her arrest was imminent back home, which would be easy enough to add here and crank up the tension:
I was there until someone tracked me down and dragged me back home where I would immediately be arrested.
For me, this was a page-turn. What did you think?
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.
- 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.
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.
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 © 2017 Ray Rhamey, chapter © 2017 by Troy.
My books. You can read sample chapters and learn more about the books here.
Writing Craft Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling
Fantasy (satire) The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles
Mystery (coming of age) The Summer Boy
Science Fiction Hiding Magic
Science Fiction Gundown Free ebooks.