19 July 2007

The First Five Pages . . . or Paragraphs

I just finished reading The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. Mr. Lukeman is a literary agent who knows his stuff. His book points out the most common problems with manuscripts that he sees in the slush pile. If you’ve been writing fiction for awhile, you won’t find any surprises, but what I liked was the way he articulated common problems he sees in manuscripts.

Really, the problems that Mr. Lukeman sees in the first five pages of a novel are many of the same problems I see in the first five paragraphs of short stories that end up in the Electric Spec rejection pile. They are problems with:

Too many adjectives and adverbs
The sound of the prose (e.g. word echoes)
Overuse or poor use of comparison (analogy, simile, and metaphor)
Style (i.e. too academic, journalistic, or stream of consciousness)
Dialogue, including
Missing or bad tags
Commonplace topics
Overly informative dialogue
Hard to follow
Telling instead of showing
Viewpoint and Narration
Lack of hooks
Lack of subtlety
Pacing and Progression

If you are not familiar with any of the issues raised above, it might be a good to check out The First Five Pages. I guarantee that if you address the issues Mr. Lukeman raises in his book, your chances of getting a story accepted at Electric Spec will be much better!


Don said...

It's an excellent book. My limited experience has been that it's not writers who give useful advice on writing, it's editors and agents (Lukeman is the latter) since they have the big picture of what's coming in and know all the stuff that gets rejected.

lesleylsmith said...

Of course Electric Spec editors would never have any of these problems in our writing! :)