Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The First Five Pages

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Keeping Out of the Rejection Pile
by Noah Lukeman

Whether you are a novice writer or a veteran who has already had your work published, rejection is often a frustrating reality. Literary agents and editors receive and reject hundreds of manuscripts each month. While it's the job of these publishing professionals to be discriminating, it's the job of the writer to produce a manuscript that immediately stands out among the vast competition. And those outstanding qualities, says New York literary agent Noah Lukeman, have to be apparent from the first five pages.

The First Five Pages reveals the necessary elements of good writing, whether it be fiction, nonfiction, journalism, or poetry, and points out errors to be avoided, such as

* A weak opening hook
* Overuse of adjectives and adverbs
* Flat or forced metaphors or similes
* Melodramatic, commonplace or confusing dialogue
* Undeveloped characterizations and lifeless settings
* Uneven pacing and lack of progression

With exercises at the end of each chapter, this invaluable reference will allow novelists, journalists, poets and screenwriters alike to improve their technique as they learn to eliminate even the most subtle mistakes that are cause for rejection. The First Five Pages will help writers at every stage take their art to a higher -- and more successful -- level. (description taken from

This was a really helpful book on the writing craft. While I had to read it in several sittings and I took TONS of notes, as long as I paced myself, I did not get overwhelmed. Each chapter deals with a different foible that writers should avoid and ends with both examples of what not to do and how it was done right and then exercises for working on your own writing.

I had been critiqued and told that I needed to work on showing versus telling readers about things in my plotlines...I had no clear idea what that really meant. Lukeman's chapter on Showing versus Telling gave GREAT examples and I'm a lot more confident about fixing my writing, though I know I have a LOT of work to do on it.

The first section also gave really great, concise directions for actually formatting a physical manuscript...and why those very specific details can make or break a writer's chance with an agent.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is working on writing their own books. No matter what, your writing can always improve in some way!

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