Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Craft Book of the Month: The First Five Pages

Well, friends, here it is. My last post of the year (unless I have some pressing revelation before midnight on the 31st) and my last post on this wonderful book which has occupied my thoughts for the past 8 weeks.

If I had but world and time, I would type out the entire epilogue of The First Five Pages for you. It is, quite simply, a love letter to writing. I want the final paragraph to be in my obituary, it is that good.

Do not be discouraged, Noah Lukeman tells us. We writers need to hear that every day, in what is often a laborious task with more rejection than glory. Noah Lukeman goes on to say,
If you stay with it long and hard enough, you will inevitably get better at your craft, learn more about the publishing business, maybe get published in a small literary magazine--eventually even find an agent. Maybe your first book won't sell; maybe your second or third won't either. But if you can stand the rejection, if you can stubbornly stay with it year after year after year, you will make it into print. I know many writers who wrote several books--some over the course of thirty years--before they finally got their first book deal.
(Thanks, Mr. Lukeman. I have another ten years to go!)

Noah Lukeman continues by advising the writer to make an effort to be social. ("While the craft of writing has little to do with being social, I can assure you the business of writing does... You may learn more about publishing from one party in one afternoon than from entire volumes.") He asks next about whether writing is the number-one priority in your life. (Did you know that Thomas Mann didn't even interrupt his writing to attend the funeral of his son?) He talks about Genet writing on toilet paper in prison, of Dostoyevsky's struggles, of how Conrad--without a word of English before the age of twenty--went on to be one of the great writers in the English language, and of how Faulkner toiled in factories and post offices. Then, he asks, If these writers could overcome such obstacles, how can you give up after a few rejection slips?

And now comes the final paragraph, the one I want read at my funeral:
The ultimate message of this book, though, is not that you should strive for publication, but that you should become devoted to the craft of writing, for its own sake. Ask yourself what you would do if you knew you would never be published. Would you still write? If you are truly writing for the art of it, the answer will be yes.
YES, YES, and YES!

P.s. In these days of google alerts, I received a very nice e-mail from Noah Lukeman. In it, he told me about his blog,, where he answers questions about writing and the industry. You can also sign up for his free ezine, which is filled with tips for authors. And if you visit and click “FREE,” you can download over 100 additional pages of free information of help to authors. You can also find links to follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Noah Lukeman seems to be a generous soul, and eager to help writers. I can think of no better way to help your writing self than to read and study (again and again!) The First Five Pages.

See you all in 2011. I'll have a grand new writing book to discuss with you, one high on inspiration. All will be revealed the first Wednesday in January. Till then, it's Auld Lang Syne and Happy Hogmanay! Bring on the haggis.


  1. Thanks for sharing such great information about Noah Lukeman and his book! Wishing you a very Happy and Prosperous, Writing-successful Year, Michael!


  2. Reciprocal wishes to you both, Sylvia and Dan. It's great knowing you both, and having you in my corner, so to speak.

    Happy 2011.


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