Interactive Header

Robin Writes Header
Robin Writes Header
home bio contact projects interviews

Monday, March 12, 2012

The First Five Pages

After reading Sol Stein's How to Grow a Novel & Stein on Writing, I convinced myself I was  terrible, horrible, no good, very bad writer because I'm not a plotter. I tried to change my ways, but it wasn't me. The writer in me lost confidence, so it was with hesitation that I determined to "sharpen the saw" and read 10 craft books.

The lovely Kathryn Purdie recommended The First Five Pages: AWriter's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. 2 words that sold me-short and enjoyable. A non-fiction book that was enjoyable? I had to see for myself. I checked it out from the library and then had to buy my own copy.

Amazon Book 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.

Lukeman's intentionally bad examples had me laughing so hard I cried.

One quick example-"The squad car went fast down the bumpy, rocky road, quickly swerving to avoid the large, fat bugs smashing squarely against the slimy windshield. The hot, humid, stifling day poured in in waves making the men wipe their sweaty, clammy brows with their diry,greasy rags . . ."

If you want to laugh and learn, this is a great book to do it with. At only 197 pages it's a quick read as well. As per my 2012 goals I've now read 1 craft book. 9 more to go. What books have helped you grow the most as a writer?


  1. I enjoyed THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, as well as the others you mentioned. (Sol Stein is a genius.) I keep meaning to read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott because so many of my favorite writers site that as a wonderful book on craft. But one of the most useful books on craft I've ever read was STORY by Robert McKee. It's a screenwriting book, but so many of the principles cross over to novel writing and storytelling in general. I also found Stephen King's ON WRITING quite fascinating. Orson Scott Cards CHARACTER AND VIEWPOINT is another good one. Okay, I'll shut up now. Enjoy!

    1. Thanks for all the recommendations Liesl! I'm going to try STORY next.

  2. I've never actually read a book about writing....which is surprising, now that I think about it. But I will have to check this one out. Thanks for the recommend!

  3. I'm glad you liked this book, Robin. I've also recently read PLOT & STRUCTURE and REVISION & SELF-EDITING, both by James Scott Bell, and I really loved them. They move beyond grammatical stuff and address how the book is working as a whole. Also, SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne and Dave King is super good.

  4. I'm reading Bird by Bird, but The First Five Pages is next on my list. Thanks for the recommendations (Robin and commenters!)

  5. Thanks guys-lots of books to try . . .