Goodreads review: “The First Five Pages”

The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you want to write a novel, The First Five Pages should be helpful, although with a couple of minor caveats.

The book starts at the sentence level and carefully considers individual word choices, offering both basic and sophisticated advice. For example, comparisons slow down a text — which can be good or bad, depending on the pacing the author needs.

The second half of the book looks at “big picture” concerns like pacing, setting, and characterization. These can raise a novel from good to great. Some of Lukeman’s lessons might be familiar but reminders won’t hurt, and other lessons might be new and necessary.

Two caveats: First, the opening chapter, Presentation, is laughably out of date. Submissions are electronic these days, via email or website, and would-be authors need advice for how to handle those formats, not warnings about dot-matrix printers. Second, the examples of what not to do are so over-the-top bad that they rarely teach the would-be writer very much.

Beyond that, which are small problems, I think the book is worth the investment of money and time. Noah Lukeman knows that writing is hard, and he offers not just good advice but consistent encouragement.

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