Monday, 30 May 2016

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Editing for Success

I am in the toddler phase of writing, you know, the stage where you write a line and then holler to the world....

'Hey guys, check out what I did!!!'

I am clearly in desperate need for someone to introduce me to the process that exists between writing and 'being read'.
The author's version of an instagram filter that smooths out the edges and turns the metaphorical double chin into a strong jawline.

I believe (though I have not experienced it myself) that this stage is called 'editing' and that this is the step that separates the gold from the mud.

Although I am writing with my tongue firmly in my cheek, I will say this:

For a long time I believed if the writing was not great when it first hit the page, then I had failed and that there was no hope for improvement.

This belief left me feeling saddened and drained of enthusiasm, so it was with a great sense of relief that I discovered that great works of writing were in fact crafted and coaxed into being, and did not (as per my previous thoughts) spring fully formed and perfect from the mind of the author and onto the page.

This is where 'The First Five Pages' by Noah Lukeman enters the story with this firm advice:

All great writing is in fact, great re-writing.

As an editing newby, I was looking for a guide to editing that was practical and workman like. A book with specific steps and advice for writers who were looking to improve the quality of their work over the longer term and remove the 'clangers', such as changes in tense and awkward dialogue, in the short term.

'The First Five Pages' provides exactly this advice to authors, being written from the perspective of a literary agent who is desperately looking for reasons to NOT continue reading your book.
Seeking to find cliches, formatting errors, excess adjectives, flabby descriptions and awful alliteration the agent is on a mission to reject each book, if only to save himself the time that would have to be invested to read them through to the end.

Noah, himself one of these nasty 'book avoiding' literary agents, is perfectly positioned to guide authors, experienced and greenhorn alike, through the potential plot, pacing and presentation pitfalls (did you see what I did there with alliteration, did you?) that will doom their manuscripts to the rejection letter pile and keep them from the Amazon conquering success that they so clearly deserve.

I liked this book for its no nonsense approach and practical editing process, though I have to admit at times I found the delivery a little too scholarly in tone.
Despite feeling like a naughty school child, I did find 'The First Five Pages' extremely motivating and more importantly, useful. I am optimistic my future writing and more importantly 're-writing', will be all the better for having read it.

A great read for all those who are facing the editing task for the first or fifty-first time!

Happy reading and writing to all:)

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