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Was this book helpful? The First Five Pages- by Noah Lukeman

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I want to learn more about editing my novels and getting them accepted!

I have a gift cetificate for and this book came up when I did a searh about another book = Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition : How to Edit Yourself Into Print
by Renni Browne, Dave King

Before I buy them both - I wanted to get some opinions on them.

Thanks for your insights etc.,

#1 - October 22, 2004, 05:40 PM


Um...I've read both of those books, but I hate to admit I have a terrible memory for books & can't recall a whole lot about either one! I think I get something valuable out of just about every writing book I read, but if I had to pick just one of those books I think I'd pick the Self-Editing one. It's something I'd be more likely to refer to again (and have). I also have one called The Complete Guide to Editing Your Fiction, by Michael Seidman. I do know that all 3 of them are really more geared to adult writing than children's, but I can't think of any editing/revision books that are strictly about children's literature.
#2 - October 22, 2004, 07:46 PM

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I haven't read The First Five Pages, so I can't comment on it, but I have Self-Editing and I think it's great.  It offers lots of practical, useful advice.

#3 - October 22, 2004, 07:59 PM
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Liz, I haven't read Self Editing, but I just finished The First Five Pages.  I thought it was excellent--one of the few books I've really dog eared and marked up with my highlighter.  Some of the first chapters were pretty basic DUH! information, but it was fun reading his really terrible examples and knowing that I'm not doing THAT! lol  I don't know how far you are in to novel writing, but I'm still trying to get a grasp on that one I've been toying with for a couple of years.  The sections on characterization and plotting were especially helpful.

#4 - October 22, 2004, 09:01 PM

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I think both are worth reading but not necessarily worth buying.  For the self-editing book, it really depends on where you are in your craft and your mastery of the basics.  With the Lukeman, it's kind of the same thing as tgseale said.

Anne Marie
#5 - October 23, 2004, 04:43 AM
VAMPIRINA BALLERINA series (Disney-Hyperion)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others


I’m editing my novel, so I just read both of those books. I conveniently found this thread to tell you about them.

First Five Pages (FFP) – Very concrete. Do this. Don’t do that. Follow the rules and you won’t be eliminated from the slush after the initial reader reads your first five sentences, first five paragraphs, first five chapters. As Tanya pointed out, the early chapters are fairly simplistic. I was half way through the book and feeling like I was a goddess among writers because I don’t make any of those mistakes.  :dr  But the book builds to the more subtle mistakes that a writer can make -- mistakes that will force an editor to at least read the whole manuscript before determining it’s not for them. And if they’re going to reject me, I want them to at least have to work at it.  ;D

I definitely recommend this book for new writers. This is information writers need to know, and it’s laid out in a way that’s easy to absorb. I remember my spate of how-to reading when I started this writing journey. I had so much stuff I was trying to keep track of, I was overwhelmed. It felt like I would never be able to write anything while keeping all the good writing techniques in mind. (See my quote from Self-Editing for something that would have freaked me out as a newbie.)

The one danger is that the examples the author uses are so ridiculous that it could be easy for a writer to gloss over them, thinking that they don’t write anything that horrendous, therefore, they don’t have that problem. But there are more subtle ways to make the same errors.

For the more experienced writer, probably only the second part of the book is going to be useful. But the affirmation that you are already doing so many things right, makes the first part of the book worth reading as well.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers – I will refer to this one forever. After the affirmation of my brilliance from FFP, this one brought me back to earth. Whereas the examples in FFP were easy to dismiss, many of these examples are from published novels. What’s the problem here? I don’t see a problem. If I can’t see it does that mean I’m making the same mistakes? And if you’ve been thinking that you can get away with breaking some of the rules, the authors also quote some rather biting reviews that highlight mistakes in books. So you have to think long and hard…you may be able to get published with certain mistakes in your work, but do you really want to read those types of reviews about your work?

So in that sense, FFP is about making your novel publishable. Self-Editing is about making it perfect.

There are entire chapters in Self-Editing with subjects I haven’t read about anyplace else. These chapters alone make the book necessary reading:

Interior Monologue

But I don’t think I could have absorbed everything in this book two years ago. At the time, I was busy working out the problems that FFP points out. It would have been like trying to juggle too many balls at once.

Here’s a quote to illustrate:

“You can also use beats to vary the rhythm of your dialogue. Uninterrupted dialogue not only becomes disembodied after a while, it becomes exhausting. Like a piece of good music, good dialogue has an ebb and flow to it. Where you want the tension high…pare the beats down to a bare minimum. If you’ve just had two high-tension scenes in a row, let your readers relax a bit in the next one with some quiet conversation interspersed with pauses (signified by beats).”

 :eek5:  Not being very musical, my brain would have started to freeze as soon as the analogy started. I’m not a poet, I’m not a musician. How the heck could I begin to adjust the rhythm of a prose manuscript?

But now I feel I can tackle something like that with confidence. I’m not saying I necessarily have it right at the moment. But it darn well will be by the time I’m sending it out.
#6 - November 23, 2004, 09:50 AM


Thanks to all of you for sharing your fabulous analysis of these two books. I haven't read either yet, as I'm still on my first draft of my first novel. But I've put them on my list and now I even know which to read first. Thanks!
#7 - November 23, 2004, 10:14 AM


Thanks for your wonderful and THOUGHTFULL!! reports on the two books. 

I ended up buying Write Away - by Elizabeth George

Self Editing by Renni Browne t al

I will work theough both this winter

and I will borrow First Five Pages from the Library and read soon.

I've just started writng an MG novel - in September - have a synopsis & outline - which I know will change - since I've olny written the first 3 chapters [ which will probably change too ! ]   :writing:           :faint:

Thanks again,

#8 - November 23, 2004, 09:22 PM


Glad you found my review helpful.

I realized yesterday that I needed to add something to this review. Neither of these books delves into plotting. Some aspects of characterization are covered, but it's more the fine-tuning, rather than the original creation. Nothing against the books. They don't claim to help you write a book, only edit it.

But if these are the only two books a writer uses, they could end up with a technically perfect book, that reads wonderfully, but has a boring plot, or characters that the readers don't care about.

Good luck, Liz. It sounds like you're on your way.
#9 - November 24, 2004, 06:02 AM


Hey HB. I just wanted to say you hit the nail pretty smartly on the head with your review of Lukeman's book. I read both of the books discussed here, based on the reviews of you VerlaBoarders.  I wasn't too impressed with Lukeman, maybe because he writes so dismissively about cliches and then his own prose is riddled with them (and I don't mean his examples of bad prose in need of fixing). 

I liked Self-Editing better, too.

But what I NEED is a book that will magically transform my novel into a final draft. Anyone have one of those?
#10 - March 08, 2005, 01:12 PM


Aud, sorry to say this, but I don't think such a book exists (but if you find it, let us know!) 

I've read the First Five Pages too.  It was good, but I think I already knew most of it.  It still never hurts to read these books because it forces you to think or rethink how you've written.  Personally, I think reading a lot in your genre and having beta readers is the best way to improve your own novel.  (assuming you're past the basic listed in FFP and other books). 

For plot, try "PLOT" by Ansen Dibell (Writer's Digest Book series).  I've had mine for 15 years and it's still helpfull.  I'd recommend most of the books from the Writer's Digest Book series. 
#11 - March 08, 2005, 03:55 PM


I read Lukeman's book in grad school. I think the value depends on where you are in your writing, so it may vary for each person. I think the best thing I got from the book was the message that if you don't hook the publisher in the first five pages, you're done for. I did find the examples interesting, though. I'm a big fan of inter-library loan. I only buy the ones I know I'll use as a reference again and again.

#12 - March 08, 2005, 04:39 PM


. . . maybe because he writes so dismissively about cliches and then his own prose is riddled with them (and I don't mean his examples of bad prose in need of fixing). 

You are totally right about this, Aud!  That's the one thing that really bugged me about Lukeman's book.  He kept doing all of the things that he was telling you not to do.  It was a definite case of "do as I say, not as I do." 

That said, I still liked the book and found it helpful.  But, I got it from the library and I don't feel that it's necessary to buy it.  It's one of those books that you can borrow, make a few notes from, and return it.

(I haven't read SELF-EDITING yet.)
#13 - March 08, 2005, 08:39 PM


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