Monday, February 12, 2007

Book Review: The First Five Pages

I have nearly finished reading an incredible book that has been an enormous blessing to my understanding of writing. The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman reveals the mistakes writers make and offers solutions to these problems. The book would be valuable to various levels of writers, and I plan to reread parts of it every few months in order to catch myself as I continue to progress in skill.

Written from the perspective of editors and agents, Lukeman shows how they can identify poor manuscripts within the first five pages (or sooner). Most of the principles he highlights should be considered for novels and short stories, but some principles could apply to other types of writing as well, such as journalism. No matter how aware you may think you are of these bad traits, you will probably find something you hadn’t considered, and your manuscript probably reeks of that error.

Each chapter contains examples of the issues and offers suggestions for each. There are only a few pages to each chapter, and though they make for a quick read, applying the principles takes longer. At the end of each chapter, Lukeman lists a number of exercises to help solidify what you’ve just learned. Just like any other taught skill, you probably won’t grasp the concept unless you apply it.

I strongly recommend this book for those who are looking to improve their writing but may not have time or money to attend classes or seminars. Certainly there is no replacement for having someone read your work and personally comment and coach you, but this book should help you identify some mistakes on your own. Using this book in combination with volunteer readers could really make a dramatic improvement.

Thank you, Mr. Lukeman!