My critique group took a short retreat last weekend to a casino. No, we didn’t gamble. We didn’t even drink. Our full focus was on writing. We gathered in our (gratis) room and buckled down. I had purchased The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, and he made me an instant fan. Eventually everyone bought the book so we decided when we took this excursion, we’d bring the book and work on the exercises he provides.
Everyone brought the first five pages of a WIP and Lukeman’s book, and we set to work. Our group is highly disciplined, but in this setting I didn’t expect that we would accomplish as much as we hoped. So much for low expectations. We nearly completed the book selecting the exercises possible in the limited time we had. (One exercise called for four hours which we knew would need to wait for another time.)
Noah’s book offers some advice that will strike the experienced writer as, “Well, duh.” However, even experienced writers make beginner mistakes in first drafts. It never hurts to remind yourself what you’re looking for when you go to revise. It also offers advice that writers wouldn’t know because they aren’t privy to the mindset of editors and agents.
Lukeman walks the walk in his book by keeping it short and concise. He makes his points and moves on. He covers everything from submission problems like presentation to big picture problems like characterization and pacing. He addresses common problems with language like clichés and excessive reliance on adjectives and adverbs. Through it all the tone is that of a professor who wants his student to succeed but won’t tolerate any skating on the important things. And, he reminds us, it’s all important.
For anyone on the submission track this is a must read. Take it seriously by keeping it close at hand when you’re working on your manuscript. Your future agent will thank you.