Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Page 99 test

I learned of this notion last fall - that readers turn to page 99 in a book to see if it captures their interest. Author Ford Madox put forth the original idea, saying: "open the book to page ninety-nine and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." You can read more info in the Guardian UK article.

Is that your practice? Do you believe in this idea?

I was surprised at some of the comments I found. Some readers allow a book up to 50 pages to engage them, and if it doesn't, they put it down. The next reader said the same, but after only 20-25 pages. The next said the first page. Finally, a reader said the first few sentences have to grab her.

Yikes. The pressure! :)

Sometime in the future, a web site will allow authors to post their own page 99. Until then, I decided to start a new blog series and post page 99 from my novels.

First up, Angels Sinners and Madmen, my historical romance from Freya's Bower. Set in 1850s Key West, it's an adventure about the wreckers, who salvaged cargo from ships that wrecked on the reefs beyond the island.

Page 99 opens a new chapter:

Chapter Eighteen
Pounding on the door startled Sam from sleep. He jerked upward. The pounding in his head worsened.
“Go away.” He fell back to the pillow.
The door muffled Liam’s rough voice. “If you want to keep your job, you’ll get up now. Awake or no, we’ve work to do.” Muttering, he added, “If the sorry-assed lad can’t take his liquor, he shouldn’t drink.”
Blinking, Sam sat up. His eyes felt drier than the Sahara; an unnamable ick lined his mouth. “Liam.”
Rolling off the bed, he shuffled to the door. Outside, Liam sat on the doorstep, holding his head in his hands.
Sam chuckled, but immediately stopped when it caused his head to almost burst. “I’m not the only one suffering.”
“Aye, misery loves company. Let’s go.” Liam sat, unmoving.
“I’m coming. Let me put on my boots.” He shuffled back to the bed, reaching for the spot on the floor where his boots usually sat. He found only empty air.
Strange. He always set his boots exactly there, so he could find them no matter what condition he was in. When he bent further to look for them, the lightness in his head made him sway.
Liam grumbled outside.
“Hold on. I can’t find my boots. I don’t understand where….” Realization struck him. He hadn’t been the one to take off his boots.
His memory of yesterday returned in bits. Livvie finding him at the beach. Helping him walk home, acting as his crutch. Sitting at his bedside. The last memory he had was of holding her hand, asking her to stay. Ah, hell. Had he really been so pathetic? Yet she had.
A wave of renewal washed over him, refreshing Sam from the inside out.
Clattering came from the doorway.
Liam lurched against the door jamb. “What in the name of all that’s good and holy are ye doing just sitting there, grinning like a fool? Have ye lost yer mind?”
“Not my mind. Perhaps another part of me.” To say any more to Liam was to invite ridicule. “And my boots.”
“Are ye daft? They’re right there.” He pointed.
Sam followed his finger. “Ah. So they are.” He bent to retrieve them, and his earlier nausea hardly registered. All he felt was Livvie’s touch, her brushing away his hair, soothing his brow.
Liam set his fists at his hips. “If ye move any slower, we’ll arrive in time to go home.”
“Patience is a virtue, Liam.” A virtue Liam did not possess. Sam loved to remind him anyway.
“Virtue.” Liam spat the word. “Of the seven virtues, I’ve only Prudence and Fortitude left, my boy. I never claim more.”
“And it’s balanced evenly by the seven sins. You’re only guilty of Lust and Gluttony. Perhaps an occasional Sloth, though it’s well earned.”


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I love books with good friends who can joke with each other. Sounds like I would have loved the chapter before this one.

Anonymous said...

The Page 99 Test site where you can post your own page for others to review is already up: Lots of great pages on there to read, too! And you can sort by genre, which helps a lot. Have fun!

Cate Masters said...

Thanks for checking it out Susan!