The First Five Pages-A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
By Noah Lukeman
Published by Simon & Schuster in 2000 – A newer version was published in 2005.
Noah Lukeman is a literary agent and much sought after speaker on professional writing and editing.
The first few years I was learning to write for publication I kept hearing his name and stern advice at every conference or workshop to get, read, ingest and digest The First Five Pages and to sleep with it under my pillow.
I finally bought it and read it. Now I, too, am an advocate for this book.
I want to let the author describe The First Five Pages in his own words-quoted from the book’s Introduction.
“…this book’s perspective is truly that of the agent or editor.” (p.13)
“I was able to set forth definite criteria, an agenda for rejecting manuscripts. This is the core of The First Five Pages: my criteria revealed to you.” (p. 12)
“…this book differs from most books on writing in that it is not geared exclusively for the fiction or nonfiction writer, for the journalist or poet…the principles are deliberately laid out in as broad a spectrum as possible, in order to be applied to virtually any form of writing.” (p. 17)
The First Five Pages is divided into three parts.
PART I: PRELIMINARY PROBLEMS offered me new perspective on some basics that separate great writing from good writing. The five chapters are titled: Presentation (appearance, mechanics) Adjectives and Adverbs, Sound (yep – how does my writing sound when read aloud), Comparisons (metaphors and similes) and Style (what gives my writing dimension and a certain “feel.)”
PART II: DIALOGUE contains chapters on five ailments of dialogue any of which can render my manuscript ineffective and, thus, unpublishable. They include: Between the Lines (appearance on the page and what it tells the editor or agent immediately); Commonplace (mundane, every day, insignificant dialogue); Informative (dialogue used to convey information that should be shown); Melodramatic (dialogue); Hard to Follow (dialogue that is unclear or confusing for a variety of reasons.)
PART III: THE BIGGER PICTURE covers nine aspects of writing that absolutely determine whether or not my manuscript makes it out of the slush pile and into the “possibility” pile.
The chapter titles are words you’ve heard and read before, but Lukeman’s treatment of each adds clarity to confused writers like me. The titles are: Showing Versus Telling; Viewpoint and Narration; Characterization; Hooks; Subtlery; Tone; Focus; Setting; Pacing and Progression.
They are self-explanatory, I think.
Oh! The First Five Pages includes a detailed Index. I love it!
I know I keep giving these books on the craft of writing 5 out of 5 highlighters. But they deserve it in my opinion. So, here we go again with 5 out of 5 for The First Five Pages.
One last thing – on Lukeman’s website you can read a lengthy excerpt from The First Five Pages and from each of his other books on craft. Sort of a free test-drive!