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Review: The First Five Pages

Updated on October 21, 2011

Before the Book Review:

I picked this book up during a stint in a Speculative Fiction Writer's Group. The group later fizzled out, I am sorry to say, but I suppose all good things must come to an end. I should tell you that I definitely have more than my fair share of writing books on my shelves, and I probably wouldn't have bought this one if it hadn't come so highly recommended. Not because it didn't seem like a good book, but because after a certain point you start to wonder if maybe all you are doing is buying books instead of actually writing. No, I'm serious, I probably have about twenty books that I have bought over the years. But enough with that, I bought it and added it to my collection and I can honestly say that it was the last book on writing that I have purchased. Now, on with the review!

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman

Coming from the perspective of a literary agent with previous editing experience, Noah Lukeman sets the stage quite strongly in the introduction. It's nice to see that a book lecturing on the importance of the first five pages does so well at the very beginning. I think what impressed me the most is that Lukeman is quick to dispell the notion that any writing book should shape the foundation of art. Instead, he argues, his book is merely a guide to help your writing to be better received by agents and editors alike and sheds some light into the inner workings of those worlds.

The First Five Pages is a book about writing, and should not be read with the sole purpose of navigating the publishing gauntlet, but the insights this book provides are invaluable. Of course, every beginning author wonders how to get published, but that will come in time. You must first ensure that your manuscript is up to snuff before launching it on some ill-prepared voyage on the angry ocean of broken dreams.

My biggest complaint about this book is that the "bad examples" are horrible, so much so that any writer even thinking of publication should be able to see just how bad they are. Sure, it makes a point, but it really doesn't show us real-life examples of decent writing that just isn't quite there yet. And isn't that what we're looking for? But if that is the biggest complaint I have, I suppose the book isn't all that bad, is it? In all actuality, I did learn a few things by the time I finished it, so it was definitely worth the buy.

Another refreshing part of the text is that Lukeman doesn't beat around the bush or assault you with name-dropping. It's just a straight-forward lesson on how to avoid a lot of the mistakes that the majority of writers end up making on the road to publication. Most manuscripts, in Lukeman's experience, are read with an eye looking for the flaw -- any excuse to toss it to the side to make room for the hundreds or thousands of other manuscripts awaiting their turn for perusal.

If you've made it through the first draft of your novel and you're looking for a resource to use as a standard with which to gauge your work, or you want some good tips to consider before beginning the journey, I highly recommend Lukeman's The First Five Pages.

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    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 8 years ago

      I´ll keep this book in mind! What is scarry in the whole matter, is that, a really great piece of work could be denied for publishing and underestimated. The publication history of The Lord of the Rings is a great example. After it was finally published, so many critics claimed it was a terrible piece. Nowadays the book is thought one of the most important literary works of the 20th century. (The same struggle with making the film, and it broke the world record).

    • BradyBones profile image

      R. Brady Frost 8 years ago from Somewhere Between a Dream and Memory

      The exercises that Lukeman provides are definitely a good way to examine what you've written and can really shed some light on problem areas you may have never noticed before.

      Thanks for stopping by, SimeyC!

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 8 years ago from NJ, USA

      Interesting review thanks - like much in life, first impression counts - and those first five pages are important! I must check this book out!