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The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile 0th Edition

276 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684857435
ISBN-10: 068485743X
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Editorial Reviews Review

The difference between The First Five Pages and most books on writing is that the others are written by teachers and writers. This one comes from a literary agent--one whose clients include Pulitzer Prize nominees, New York Times bestselling authors, Pushcart Prize recipients, and American Book Award winners. Noah Lukeman is not trying to impart the finer points of writing well. He wants to teach you "how to identify and avoid bad writing," so that your manuscript doesn't come boomeranging back to you in that self-addressed, stamped envelope. Surprise: Agents and editors don't read manuscripts for fun; they are looking for reasons to reject them. Lukeman has arranged his book "in the order of what I look for when trying to dismiss a manuscript," starting with presentation and concluding with pacing and progression. Each chapter addresses a pitfall of poor writing--overabundance of adjectives and adverbs, tedious or unrealistic dialogue, and lack of subtlety to name just a few--by identifying the problem, presenting solutions, giving examples (one wishes these weren't quite so obvious), and offering writing exercises. It's a little bizarre to think about approaching your work as would an agent, but if you are serious about getting published, you may as well get used to it. Plus, Lukeman has plenty of solid advice worth listening to. Particularly fine are his exercises for removing and spicing up modifiers and his remedies for all kinds of faulty dialogue. --Jane Steinberg

From Library Journal

Novice and amateur writers alike will benefit from literary agent Lukeman's lucid advice in this handy, inexpensive little book. Lukeman draws on his years of editorial experience to present an inside look at manuscript submission. He provides suggestions, examples, and practice exercises designed to lift ordinary prose to a higher level. Covering writing fundamentals, including viewpoint, tone, pacing, character development, grammar, and more, Lukeman sprinkles examples of common writing problems and simple solutions throughout the text. Carrying the craft of writing beyond Strunk and White's classic Elements of Style, this book should find a wide audience; public libraries sponsoring writers' groups and workshops will want multiple copies. Academic libraries will want several copies to share with writing labs. Highly recommended.
-Denise S. Sticha, Seton Hill Coll., Greensburg, PA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068485743X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684857435
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (276 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Noah Lukeman is author of A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation (WW Norton and Oxford University Press), to be published in April, 2006. He is also author of the bestsellers The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile (Simon & Schuster, 1999), and The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life (St. Martins Press, 2002), a BookSense 76 Selection, a Publishers Weekly Daily pick, and a selection of the Writers Digest Book Club. He has also worked as a collaborator, and is co-author, with Lieutenant General Michael "Rifle" DeLong, USMC, Ret., of Inside CentCom (Regnery, 2004), a Main Selection of the Military Book Club. His Op-Ed pieces (with General DeLong) have been published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He has also contributed to Poets & Writers, Writers Digest, The Writer, AWP Chronicle and The Writers Market, and has been anthologized in The Practical Writer (Viking, 2004). Foreign editions of his books have been published in the UK and in Portugese, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Indonesian.
Noah Lukeman is President of Lukeman Literary Management Ltd, a New York based literary agency, which he founded in 1996. His clients include winners of the Pulitzer Prize, American Book Award, Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Award, finalists for the National Book Award, Edgar Award, Pacific Rim Prize, multiple New York Times bestsellers, national journalists, major celebrities, and faculty of universities ranging from Harvard to Stanford. He has worked as a Manager in the New York office of Artists Management Group, and has worked for another New York literary agency. Prior to becoming an agent he worked on the editorial side of several major publishers, including William Morrow and Farrar, Straus, Giroux, and as editor of a literary magazine.
He has been a guest speaker on the subjects of writing and publishing at numerous forums, including the Wallace Stegner writing program at Stanford University and the Writers Digest Conference at BookExpo America. He currently teaches a course online at Writers University. He earned his B.A. with High Honors in English and Creative Writing from Brandeis University, cum laude.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

358 of 370 people found the following review helpful By Victoria Tarrani on June 26, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Readers and editors are over burdened with books, book deals, writers, publicity, and other aspects of their daily routine. They are expected to read manuscripts at home, so it is no wonder that to get through a large slush pile editors use the precedent: find reasons to reject manuscripts in order to go on to the next one.

This book does not teach 'how to write,' but how to avoid the mistakes that send your manuscript to the recycle bin. That is the craft of writing.

To be successful, you have to capture your audience in the first five pages. Noah Lukeman, a prestigious editor turned agent knows the secrets of successful writing. In reality, you must capture your reader in the first five words, sentences, or paragraphs with a strong hook and the good writing.

Lukeman arranged the chapters in The First Five Pages to show each process in rejecting manuscripts. Follow the steps, and if you are lucky, you might get a contract. Do not follow the steps, and the only reason your manuscript will reach the one person who can make a difference is through a fluke.

Each chapter concludes with write and rewrite examples and practices. The Lukeman way is included at the back of the book. The only way to become a better writer is to write. The following is only a brief synopsis of a few chapters.

Presentation: The number one reason aspiring writers get rejections is that the work is inappropriate for the market. Simply put: do not send a bodice-ripper, swashbuckling tale to someone representing coffee table books. Other problems are spelling errors, sloppiness, faded text, and dirty paper; they all indicate carelessness that is generally reflected throughout the book.
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113 of 115 people found the following review helpful By on January 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Noah Lukeman's portrayal of overworked editors looking for just one reason to shoot your beloved work into the rejection pile is a sharp bite of reality that some writers won't want to feel. Like it or not, Lukeman is bluntly asserting that most writers are rejected by agents and publishers because they simply can't pass first muster-and that the margin for failure is very narrow.
Lukeman's book is a gutsy reminder that success as a writer is hard won and that writing is a craft like any other and must be learned-the hard way. If (in terms of numbers alone) the odds are stacked against you each time an editor or agent opens your work - then all the more reason you should be as good a writer as you can. The critical, probing exercises found at the end of each chapter are likely to be valuable to writers not only because of the very practical way in which they are presented, but because they also have the virtue of supporting Lukeman's central conviction that writers can train their minds towards critical thought-and through critical thought comes better writing. New writers will pore over his exercises in detail, while more skilled writers will use them to throw new light on specific problem areas.
The glimpses Lukeman offers into the pent-up pressure within agent and editors offices, and the "read to reject" rule that prevails throughout the publishing industry also represent valuable insights into the context in which each writer's work is reviewed. And his frank assessment of some writers' abilities is obviously the result of having been on the receiving end of a lot of poor writing in his time.
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84 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Burt on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Noah asked me, as the " guy," to read a galley of TFFP; I was terribly impressed (and no, I don't know him beyond a few emails, nor am I in any way involved in this). The book neatly describes the majority of what I personally find wrong with beginners' (even much pro :-) writing. Yet it's not particularly a book about how to write -- it's a book about *How not to get rejected*.
The title is from the widely practiced, but perhaps not as widely known, concept that you only have the first few pages to make an impression. (He said he'd have called it "The First Five Sentences" -- but he didn't think people would believe him.)
What he's done is categorized the kinds of things that he as an agent and editor sees so much of in slush reading that they earn a manuscript a near instant rejection. If you want to sell stuff, you need to know how editors look at your work. This is the book to read.
I agree with him so much, and like it so well, my only regret is that I didn't write it myself. :-)
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336 of 378 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
If you know much about writing at all--if you've taken courses or published anything or read other good books-- this book probably won't be very useful to you. I was attracted by the title and the fact that it was written by an agent but got very little from it on WRITING--the most interesting aspect was that it was an agent's point of view and it told something about why manuscripts are rejected, but it was mostly obvious stuff I already knew. The whole first two-thirds of the book has pointers like don't have misspellings or a messy manuscript or use too many adverbs or draw on your manuscript or write grammatically incorrect sentences that are hard to follow. As other reviewers have noted, the examples are often blatant and laughable: they illustrate the obvious about melodrama and boring dialogue, for example--like, who wouldn't know, "I can't pay the rent. You must pay the rent" should be avoided?

What I, as a writer, need is more specifics and finer distinctions about what distinguishes good writing from poor,--more substance-- and this book taught me very little about that. Far better is SELF EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, by two professional editors who understand good writing and know how to give pointers and lessons on how to achieve it, or HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL, for an understanding on structure and drama vs. melodrama, or NARRATIVE FICTION, a classic textbook used in colleges around the country. I notice most the reviewers here who liked the book seem to be non-writers--i.e. the lawyer fraternity brother--or beginners who need to know to double space, use one-inch margins, and not write dialogue that is hard to follow. Unless you fall into one of those groups, you might be better off with another text.
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