- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Original ed. edition (January 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 068485743X
- ISBN-13: 978-0684857435
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 310 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile Original ed. Edition
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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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The title is misleading. This book, like several others I've read, goes over what you should and should not do in prose writing. Show don't tell. Passive voice. Dialogue tags. Pacing. Yeah, nothing new to see here. None of it is geared specifically for opening your story with a bang. It's all the usual rules you should follow for your entire book.
Yes, toward the back there is a chapter on memorable opening lines, where we get to read "Call me Ishamael." for the millionth time. The author doesn't explain how exactly to approach writing a memorable first line, he mostly warns against using one followed by a story which can't live up to it. If you find yourself in that situation, either tone down this awesome opening line you spent a month crafting, or drive yourself mad dragging the rest of the 300 pages up in quality.
I took issue with the author's highly exaggerated and almost unreadable examples. For the most part he came up with the absolute worst mini scenes to show what you shouldn't do. He seldom rewrote them into something "fixed", which is understandable - there was no fixing them. He did provide a handful of examples to give the reader some idea of what he considered skilled writing. Nearly all of them were from the classics, with only one or two from anything people would read for pleasure. Using Melville to illustrate "good" writing is like shoving a person's hand into a fire to teach them what it's like to get burned. It hurts and makes them want to run away.
He also discusses the art of naming characters. I understand why he brought this up since a name consisting of only consonants or vowels can make it difficult for the average reader to hang onto. Having a bunch of similar names can cause issues too. Names which are too long can cause fatigue and slow down the story (one of my great problems - which I don't know how to fix since everyone is so formal in my stories).
However, there is a limit. I remember reading Shogun over twenty years ago and having trouble keeping all of the Japanese names straight. Does that mean Clavell should have changed everyone's names to suit my ignorance? Of course not. And Noah Lukeman offhandedly suggesting a sci-fi writer should name a space alien Bob because it's easy to remember, and would be an unusual name for a space alien, is wrong-headed too.
Ironically, many of the quotes heading each chapter are more telling than the content of the chapters. They sometimes even seem to contradict Mr. Lukeman's points. For example, all throughout the book, the author clamors about this and that Russian writer and disregards genre fiction. Yet chapter 18 starts with a quote from Mark Twain: A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read. Noah Lukeman's goal appears to be to encourage you to write like people nobody wants to read.
If you haven't already read a goodly number of writing books (I recommend "Wonderbook" by Jeff VanderMeer or just about anything by James Scott Bell), then you'll get more out of this book than I did. If you're like me and read how-to writing books as often as fiction books, then this book is more likely to anger you than inform you.
Yes it is snarky and condescending not to mention redundant and I returned it for a refund because of its offensive content.
This book is organized by Lukeman in the order he feels are the reasons editors, agents and publishers reject a manuscript, which is great for new writers. Now that I've read the whole book, I plan to work through my manuscript chapter by chapter referring back to this book.
I recommend reading through the entire book before going through your manuscript, because you don't want to fix one problem in your manuscript only to create a new one that's covered in a later chapter. Having the whole picture already in mind will help the writer stay on track easier.
Note: Don't assume that the chapters at the end of the book aren't important for writers to pay attention to, but rather that if you must be weak -- and all new writers will be weak in some areas -- make sure you're not weak in the areas covered in the front of this book. The decision makers will never know if you're strong in pacing if your first page is poor. They'll have tossed it by the second page.
The weaknesses in this book, in my humble opinion, are the examples. They're so blatantly obvious that they're not helpful. I would've loved to see two paragraphs compared: One that was fine, but exhibiting weaknesses and then that same paragraph made great. Most of Lukeman's examples were so painfully obvious that even the worst of writers would surely know not to write like that.
Nevertheless, I found this a great tool for beginning to intermediate writers. Advanced writers might benefit from this book as a back to basics checklist, but they're not going to learn anything new.
I approach such advise books with caution but heartily recommend his work.