The first five pages : a writer's guide to staying out of the rejection pile

by Noah Lukeman

Paper Book, 2000

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Simon & Schuster, c2000.

Description

IF YOU'RE TIRED OF REJECTION, THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU. Whether you are a novice writer or a veteran who has already had your work published, rejection is often a frustrating reality. Literary agents and editors receive and reject hundreds of manuscripts each month. While it's the job of these publishing professionals to be discriminating, it's the job of the writer to produce a manuscript that immediately stands out among the vast competition. And those outstanding qualities, says New York literary agent Noah Lukeman, have to be apparent from the first five pages. The First Five Pages reveals the necessary elements of good writing, whether it be fiction, nonfiction, journalism, or poetry, and points out errors to be avoided, such as * A weak opening hook * Overuse of adjectives and adverbs * Flat or forced metaphors or similes * Melodramatic, commonplace or confusing dialogue * Undeveloped characterizations and lifeless settings * Uneven pacing and lack of progression With exercises at the end of each chapter, this invaluable reference will allow novelists, journalists, poets and screenwriters alike to improve their technique as they learn to eliminate even the most subtle mistakes that are cause for rejection. The First Five Pages will help writers at every stage take their art to a higher -- and more successful -- level.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member gilroy
This book offers writers a good view into the world of slush that editors and agents wade through every day. As a prospective Author (since I'm already a writer) its offers tips on how to keep a manuscript towards the top of the pile.

Each chapter offers a common issue that an editor or agent finds as a reason to reject the story in front of them, as well as solutions and examples. Its worth reading for anyone who wishes to be published.… (more)
LibraryThing member sirfurboy
I have never written a book for publication. Well - that is not quite true. I wrote one once long ago that was immature and frankly boring, and was rightly rejected once and I never tried again! Since then I have not found time to produce a better effort.

With all that out in the open, I can say I am reviewing this book as an interested writer rather than a (currently) aspiring writer. Although had I read this book back in the day I wrote my one manuscript, I would have produced something very different.

To be clear, this book is not a manual on how to write a book. The author's advice there is really just to get on and write! But this book focuses on how to get your book noticed and thus published. For this purpose I can think of no better book.

Speaking with the experience of having been an editor and then an agent, the author brings real world experience of what it is like to work through a large pile of manuscripts, and the tricks of the trade that are used to whittle that list down to something manageable. His advice is that a book must grab the reader in the first five pages, and avoid some key and common stylistic errors in order to get noticed. (Other tricks on piquing an editor's interest are included too).

Some will consider this advice and say "well that just means that good stories are getting rejected without being read". And the answer there is presumably: "yes, they are. But follow this advice and yours won't be one of them".

For an aspiring writer this, I think, is a must read. I have, in fact, recommended it to several people who have told me they wish they could get books published, and I will keep recommending it unless and until I find something better. But I am not holding my breath.
… (more)
LibraryThing member kellyholmes
Summary: A literary agent and former editor shares tips on how to make your first 5 pages shine.

Review: I would recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers over this book. However, if you’re looking for another slightly different list of issues to look for in your writing, go ahead and read this book.

The advice in this one was solid, but other elements of it weren’t:

* Silly, obvious examples—Showing examples of what you’re talking about: Awesome. Showing examples that were obviously constructed just for the purpose of this book and were so ridiculous that only a complete idiot could have written them: Not so awesome. The examples didn’t really help me at all.
* Exercises for the sake of exercises—A few times, the writing exercises at the end of each chapter seemed arbitrary, like someone just thought them up and stuck them in the book without stopping to test whether they were actually helpful. I’d rather have a couple tried-and-true exercises than a bucket of this-seems-like-it-might-work exercises.
… (more)
LibraryThing member sirfurboy
I have never written a book for publication. Well - that is not quite true. I wrote one once long ago that was immature and frankly boring, and was rightly rejected once and I never tried again! Since then I have not found time to produce a better effort.

With all that out in the open, I can say I am reviewing this book as an interested writer rather than a (currently) aspiring writer. Although had I read this book back in the day I wrote my one manuscript, I would have produced something very different.

To be clear, this book is not a manual on how to write a book. The author's advice there is really just to get on and write! But this book focuses on how to get your book noticed and thus published. For this purpose I can think of no better book.

Speaking with the experience of having been an editor and then an agent, the author brings real world experience of what it is like to work through a large pile of manuscripts, and the tricks of the trade that are used to whittle that list down to something manageable. His advice is that a book must grab the reader in the first five pages, and avoid some key and common stylistic errors in order to get noticed. (Other tricks on piquing an editor's interest are included too).

Some will consider this advice and say "well that just means that good stories are getting rejected without being read". And the answer there is presumably: "yes, they are. But follow this advice and yours won't be one of them".

For an aspiring writer this, I think, is a must read. I have, in fact, recommended it to several people who have told me they wish they could get books published, and I will keep recommending it unless and until I find something better. But I am not holding my breath.
… (more)
LibraryThing member chicklit
This is a practical book for those who want to publish novels and short stories. While it doesn't delve too deeply into the conventions of narrative and style, it provides some useful tips for avoiding common mistakes and punching up your writing.
LibraryThing member cdp02005
The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman (2005)
LibraryThing member jbrubacher
This is a good instructional manual for beginning writers. The negative examples are too obvious and simplified to be much help, but the advice is sound.
LibraryThing member karhne
Detailed, yet very basic. It covers a lot of ground that should be a given--spell things right, proper manuscript format--and seems to expect your first five pages have not yet been written. Put it on your "borrow" list, and think about buying Lukeman's other book, The Plot Thickens.
LibraryThing member marnanel
When you try to sell a book to a publisher, one of the things you send them is the first few pages of your manuscript. This book promises a discussion of how best to present your work to a publisher, but what it actually delivers is a detailed discussion of how to write good prose at a low level: the use of parts of speech, "show, don't tell", euphony, and so on. It makes only a brief attempt to deal with higher-level issues such as plot and characterisation, though the author has a book on those subjects too.

This sort of book is useful in its way; heaven knows there are many would-be writers who need a remedial English lesson. But the problems it addresses affect the entire manuscript, not only the first five pages, and there is not enough of an attempt made to deal with the actual pitfalls specific to submission, such as writing the first five pages in a way that will sell the rest of the book. I was disappointed.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Lisahgolden
I want (need?) to read this book before I write any more of my fiction piece.
LibraryThing member fiverivers
The book may be of use to the novice writer who has no knowledge of the publishing industry or of the craft of writing. For myself, I found it a bit facile, to the point I would expect this book to be standard reading in a secondary school creative writing course.
LibraryThing member ElectricRay
" This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. "
- Dorothy Parker

Having been doggedly customer reviewing for over a decade, I've received my fair share of solicitations to review terrible self-published novels.

It takes unquestionable intellectual ability and focus to turn out 200 pages of uninterrupted prose (it is certainly beyond me: I've tried on many occasions and always given up, hence I stick to a length - book reviewing - I can cope with), and frequently these books are imaginative in scope. But from the first page, you just know they're no good, purely from the prose style.

This book is one I would commend to all those authors: it addresses the most common categories of prose misjudgement that amateur writers make. Many of them are eminently correctable. Much boils down to "if in doubt, and frequently, even when not in doubt, leave it out". I have heard this expressed in the aphorism "murder your darlings". Amateur novels tend to be colossally over-written. A confident writer will not need to over-woo his audience, and is secure enough to leave the "world-building" to his reader.

Lukeman does the great service of going, systematically and thoroughly, through the ways you might do weed out overwriting. He supposes (correctly) that you'll already have a manuscript, and that the job is thus one of editing rather that prospective composition.

The first part of this book is first rate on why adverbs and adjectives should *generally* be avoided like the plague. First timers tend to ladle them on. (The need for a modifier implies weakness in the selection of a noun or verb. So choose better nouns and verbs).

His discussion of dialogue, characterisation, and setting - and critically, their interaction with the plot - is also enlightening.

The book does tail off in enthusiasm towards the end (despite discussing it Lukeman hasn't any practical advice for how to deal with pacing or tone, although it's hard to think what such advice might be) and his text is blighted by his own use of obviously made-up, exaggerated examples of "bad" writing: presumably Lukeman has waste-takers full of real examples, and these would ring more truly for his target audience and better emphasise his point.

Nevertheless, this quick book really ought to be a compulsory read for an aspiring novelist, ideally before he seals and addresses his A4 envelopes.
… (more)
LibraryThing member CharityBradford
I loved this book so much that I have added it to my list of "to buy". It has great info along with practical exercises to help improve your writing. It is also set up so that you can work on your problem areas and not worry about the what is working for you.
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
An editor once told me that if you're going to take advice on writing, take it either from name-bestselling writers or gatekeepers such as acquiring editors or agents--not necessarily anyone who writes for Writer's Digest or has taught a writing class. And that's exactly what makes Lukeman's book so valuable. As a literary agent he's one of those gatekeepers, and this book is about what can get you kicked out before you can even cross the threshold--those first five pages. Of course many of the lessons learned here can be applied to an entire manuscript--and not just for the purposes of selling--but just plain learning to be a better writer and break bad habits.… (more)
LibraryThing member gmicksmith
One of the better volumes on how to write a novel. It starts in the beginning and without an initial strong impression you are not going anywhere.
LibraryThing member garethmottram
One of the best books I've read if you're sending off to agents and publishers and if you're self editing.

As you might guess from the title, Lukeman explains exactly what agents look for in order to reject your mss by reading as few pages as possible. It starts from the mechanics of presentation and then works through the other hurdles in rejection potential order from micro things like too many adjectives all the way up to pacing, character arcs and loads more.

Good exercises and examples throughout to help you avoid these rejection reasons.
… (more)
LibraryThing member VeritysVeranda
While I don't consider myself a writer, I still found this book useful in helping me better understand why I like some books and hate others. Concise and direct read that allows you to get straight to the problem(s) and back to writing, quickly.
LibraryThing member KikiUnhinged
I can see why my English Writing instructor recommended this to me on a side note. Informative, easy to digest, and covers all the important factors of getting past the the first cut.
LibraryThing member tundra
This is a fantastic book. It goes over a lot of concepts and offers practical solutions. Also, many of the examples that the author has in the book are laugh out loud hilarious. I enjoyed it. It would be a good book to read once a year.
LibraryThing member Anna_Erishkigal
This book is probably the only resource out there that spells out (using egregious examples) all the bad habits your editor keeps scribbling all over your manuscripts that you look at and go "WHAT? What does this MEAN?"

None of these bad habits are unique to writing how-to books. Every book out there (and I've read a lot) TELLS you to eliminate these bad habits. Eliminate unnecessary adverbs. Show don't tell. Blah blah blah... But this is the only book out there that teaches you to SPOT these bad habits in your OWN writing when you know something's a little off, but you can't quite put your finger on it. It's as though a lightbulb goes off in your head. You can then go through your OWN manuscript chapter by chapter and see you've used one 'comparison' too many per page, or know how to reword that clunky spot of dialogue that keeps giving you trouble no matter how many times you rewrite it, or spot when your writing is reading more like a police report rather than prose.

The publishing industry has changed. This may be considered 'writing 101', but if you have ANY bad habits at all, you're going to get rejected because publishers no longer have the resources to have somebody edit your manuscript. You'll just get rejected and never know why. Ranting about the unfairness of it all won't change that fact. Using this book, however, and others like it (Editing for Fiction Writers is another 5-star resource) to self-edit your manuscript before submitting it will increase your competitive edge.
… (more)
LibraryThing member PhilSyphe
Many books on writing focus on what *to* do in hope for success, yet this is such a broad spectrum that such advice will most likely only help certain types of authors.

The "do nots" are more specific, therefore Noah Lukeman's advice of what a writer should avoid is well worth paying attention to. His own writing style is straightforward, which is how advice ought to be.

Recommended for unpublished and established authors alike.
… (more)
LibraryThing member LivelyLady
Easy to read tips on how to submit your manuscript as attractively as possible.

Language

Barcode

8267
Page: 0.2148 seconds