19 July 2018

Short Reads Short Reviews #1: The First Five Pages

The First Five Pages
Noah Lukeman
Simon & Schuster, 2000
208 pages (197 pages plus an index)

For my first Short Reads Short Reviews book, I chose a nonfiction title about writing and publishing a novel. Noah Lukeman is a literary agent who has read many, many manuscripts and has decided to help authors make their books more publishable.


It is not about how to write a novel but about the pitfalls an author can fall into because of carelessness, laziness, or ignorance, or maybe hubris. His introduction states:

There are no rules to assure great writing, but there are ways to avoid bad writing. This, simply, is the focus of this book: to learn how to identify and avoid bad writing.

There are three sections containing a total of 19 chapters, each discussing one type of bad writing -- giving examples, solutions, and often clever exercises to perform on your own text. Preliminary Problems has five chapters on very basic mistakes that will likely get your manuscript rejected out of hand by most agents or editors. Grimy pages, improper formatting, and poor use of adverbs, adjectives, similes, and metaphors are marks of an amateur. The five chapters on Dialogue discuss topics such as melodramatic or humdrum dialogue between characters. The largest section, The Bigger Picture, talks about everything else, from viewpoint to showing versus telling to tone, focus and setting.

I found this a very valuable read even before I begin to write during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this November. And after November ends I certainly need to reread it as I begin to edit my manuscript. I liked its practicality, and the way it showed me an editor's view of a new manuscript from an unknown writer. If you want to write either fiction or nonfiction, maybe even poetry, you need to read this!


Mr. Lukeman has written two other books on getting published, which he has released bundled into one free edition, available from his personal website in several formats including PDF, Kindle, and iTunes. Just scroll to the bottom of the web page.

"How to Write a Great Query Letter: Insider Tips and Techniques for Success"
"How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent"

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