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The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile Original ed. Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 293 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684857435
ISBN-10: 068485743X
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Original ed. edition (January 2000)
  • 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 (293 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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