- 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: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (306 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,688 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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Top Customer Reviews
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. Research your market, and prepare your manuscript according to the instructions given by the agent, editor, or publisher. If they want Ariel font, give it to them.
Adjectives and Adverbs: The next step to rejection is the overuse or misuse of modifiers. These words tell rather than show your noun. "If a day is described as 'hot, dry, bright and dusty,'" these words are tedious and the image becomes significantly unimportant. Overuse is very easy to spot by a cursory glance.
Sound: If your manuscript has reached this level, it is being read. Pacing, rhythm, meter, or beat is about the way your prose reveals the story. "Prose can be technically correct, but rhythmically unpleasant." Read your work aloud; if it does not sound right to you, pay attention.
Comparison: Analogy, simile, and metaphor can be overdone. I read about 1/3 of a book recommended to me as an excellent thriller. The plot, characters, dialogue, details, and descriptions were good. I could not read the book because everything is not like something else, and every paragraph or three included a simile.
Style: If the writing feels forced or exaggerated, or the writer began to showcase his words rather than the story, the probability of rejection is high. Another nit for me is redundancy; this is a matter of using the same or similar word in close proximity. It is also a reason for rejection.
I recommend two books to my clients or fledgling writers. This is one of them. THe other is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print, by Renni Browne.
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. But while he is sometimes impatient towards writers Lukeman is never scathing, presumably because he seems genuinely to believe that anyone can train her/himself to be a better writer.
For this reason, although his stated objective is to help writers avoid the mistakes that will send them to the rejection pile, Lukeman is in fact offering a much larger opportunity to any writer who wants to seize it. He is offering tools to help train self-critical thought in the minds of those whose solitary activity can so easily steer them towards self-indulgence and uncritical acceptance of their work.
It's an excellent book and at such a reasonable price it's also a great investment.
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