Reviews of Writing Books

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The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman

Fireside, January 2000.
Paperback, 207 pages.
ISBN: 068485743X
Ordering information

The First Five Pages Noah Lukeman Noah Lukeman, a former editor and now a literary agent, offers this new reference for writers. The title of the book refers to the fact that many manuscripts are rejected by editors and agents after they have read only the first five pages, or less. "It is like a first reader who has been hired to make two piles of manuscripts, one that should be read beyond the first five pages and one that shouldn't. Ninety-nine percent of today's unsolicited manuscripts will go into the latter." Lukeman focuses on common problems found in submitted manuscripts, including grammar and style errors such as the misuse of adjectives and adverbs, as well as comparison and stylistic errors. Dialogue problems are also covered, including problems with identifiers, commonplace dialogue, hard to follow dialogue and dialogue that is too informative or melodramatic. Lukeman also covers "showing versus telling," viewpoint, characterization, hooks, tone, focus, setting and pacing. Lukeman illustrates each common mistake with examples and gives solutions and exercises for writers to overcome them. Lukeman says that focusing on errors and problems in the beginning of the manuscript will lessen the likelihood of a quick rejection, and help the writer locate other problems in the work. "Despite its title, this book is not just about the first five pages of your manuscript; rather, it assumes that by scrutinizing a few pages closely enough -- particularly the first few -- you can make a determination for the whole. It assumes that if you find one line of extraneous dialogue on page 1, you will likely find one line of extraneous dialogue on each page to come."

Noah Lukeman has great insight into what it takes to keep an editor reading your manuscript. Writers will definitely benefit from a thorough study of Lukeman's many suggestions which can help them get past the first hurdle to getting published.

Untechnical Writing by Michael Bremer

UnTechnical Press, September 1999.
Trade Paperback, 227 pages.
ISBN: 0966994906
Ordering information:

Untechnical Writing
by Michael Bremer This reference provides advice and instruction about writing technical manuals and content for consumers, or a nontechnical audience. This is becoming a very large market for writers, as companies launching websites need explanations and instructions that their customers will understand. Also, new electronic gadgets are available to consumers everyday, which need easy to read instruction manuals so the company won't be swamped with calls from confused consumers. The reference covers many technical writing topics, including writer's duties, skills needed, what the audience needs, technical writing basics, tips and tricks, editing, office politics, graphic arts, interface design, careers and other topics. The exhibits chapter in the book contains sample documents commonly used by technical writers, including a generic deliverables list, writing request form, customer fact sheet, checklists for technical writers, a content-editing cover letter and other worksheets.

Michael Bremer, a twenty-year veteran of technical writing, breaks down the business, politics and style of writing about technical subjects, so you can manage your time, get work and write material that lay people can understand. UnTechnical Writing is a must-read for beginning technical writers and creative professionals who work for high-tech and software companies.

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