Thursday, September 21, 2006

The First Five Pages

I'm not big on "how to" writing books - my favorite, Stephen King's On Writing, is more of a memoir than a writing guide. Still, Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages is pretty damn helpful. I'm not saying it's perfect. I don't quite understand his issue with the ubiquitous question mark (grounds for early rejection), and Miss Snark has given conflicting advice re. postage (Lukeman is in favor of FedEx, while MS suggests regular postage), but there's plenty of good stuff nonetheless.

This book isn't so much about how to write, but what common mistakes keep your manuscript exiled to the shit end of the slush pile. You know. The basics. The things all writers have heard a million times, and most of us need to hear again. So I'm working my way through and trying some of the exercises he's got at the end of each chapter.

While I recognize that I've got plenty of room to improve, I'm also feeling pretty damn good about how much I've grown over the past few months. I really, really needed to be reminded of this. Not the oh-wow-I'm-tha-shizzah thing, but the hey!-practice-does-pay-off-dammit thing. It's amazing how hard it is to remember the progress I've made. It's equally amazing how much attitude effects outcome. My husband threw a quote at me today (hate it when he tries to be supportive like this), that I'd heard before. "Whether you think that you can or that you can't, you're usually right." - Henry Ford. The bastard was right.


At 3:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Angie, good post. I glance at Miss Snark on occasion, but I'm not addicted. Have a super day.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

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At 10:24 AM, Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

I'm not big on 'how to write' books either. The old saying holds true - the devil makes a falsehood stick by adding it to a grain of truth.

Take the good, filter out what doesn't hold up for you and enjoy.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger mai wen said...

I love that quote!

I like John Gardner's books on writing fiction because they're kind of theoretical, which is cool because people really do have different theories and beliefs when it comes to writing etc. It's cooool.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger dink said...

I used to sneer at writing books. But I think it's really whatever works for you. If a writing book helps someone that's GREAT.

The student I mentor left one here and I began reading it --doesn't tell me anything I don't know but it reminds me of things--shows me examples and is making me think about things I ought to think about. I'm really enjoying it.

It's called "Between the Lines" master the subtle elements of fiction writing by Jessica Page Morrell. It's good stuff. helpful.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Trace said...

I loved On Writing. Carolyn Wheat's How to Write Killer Fiction is awesome as well.

At 12:56 PM, Blogger M.E Ellis said...

Hey I saw that quote somewhere, you know, like my quotes of the day. Will find it for you.


At 8:08 AM, Blogger Bill Cameron said...

When I went to the Willamette Writers conference this year, I told myself, "Don't buy a bunch of how-to books, because when you read them you either disagree or already know what they're saying."

So I only bought one.

The value of practice can't be overstated. I'm trying to get my kid to understand this. "Yes, I know it doesn't sound that good to you right now, but think about how good you'll be in a few months if you just keep practicing!" Talking piano here, but you know. It's practice. He's not buying it yet. So I have to be a tyrant.

As adults, we have to be our own tyrants though. Which is actually better, but not always easy.


At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to get mine and re-read. Read it years ago and don't remember much at all. Will be interesting to see what I think now.


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