Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages is a well-known guide to writers that, rather than offer rules for “great writing”, lays out “ways to avoid bad writing.” Lukeman is a literary agent, so he knows all about the importance of hooking your reader in the opening pages of your novel. And, as hard as it is to hook the reader, it’s even harder to hook the agent or editor.

With the goal of making your manuscript shine so that an agent/editor/reader will be sucked in from page 1, Lukeman presents the most common causes for manuscript rejection followed by the solutions. For example, he states that the most frequent cause for rejection is “presentation”, which simply means not submitting to the appropriate agent/editor; not following the submission guidelines; or any other number of problems that really have nothing to do with your writing, but that will give you a big, fat rejection nonetheless.

After presentation, he works his way through the other frequent and glaring mistakes a manuscript must avoid, such as dialogue problems, showing versus telling, tone, etc. Each chapter is set up in a Problem-Solution-Example-Exercise format, giving you lots of exposure to the issues and practice for finding them in your own WIP.

The First Five Pages is a well-written, easy-to-follow guide that will have you smacking your forehead when you recognize your own mistakes. The only reason why I don’t give it a full 5 out of 5 is because the topics overlap with other editing books (e.g. Self-editing for Fiction Writers). All the same, it does have its own wisdom to offer, and you’ve the money, then it’s well worth the $13.95.

-S.

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