Book Review: The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman

On Monday I finished reading The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile.  In it, Noah Lukeman breaks down a manuscript as an agent or editor would see it, then illustrates what they are looking for on their way towards rejecting it.  Sort of depressing.  But along the way he does give terrific advice, and, if nothing else, clarifies a set of priorities for authors when writing and revising their work.  As Lukeman says, “There are no rules to assure great writing, but there are ways to avoid bad writing.”  Lukeman breaks his book into three parts and discussing the pitfalls editors are looking for in each: [1] Preliminary Problems, [2] Dialogue, and [3] the Bigger Picture. Continue reading

Why Understand Evolution?

Americans are behind citizens in other developed countries in their understanding and acceptance of evolution.  (For evidence, see this recent article in Science.  If you can’t access it, google the title for more.)  Fortunately, some wonderful authors have written popular books that aim to present the theory of evolution to the non-evolutionary biologist.  Some recent (and highly readable) examples include What Evolution IsWhy Evolution is True, and The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.   But although these books do a terrific job of presenting the the evidence for evolution and the mechanisms behind it, none of them really address a more fundamental question: Why?  Why should Joe the Plumber or any other non-biologist care about the facts of evolution?  Below I list just three (of many) reasons why each of us should understand evolution. Continue reading

Book Review: The Stranger, by Albert Camus

I should change the title of these things to “Was Reading”: this morning I finished reading The Stranger by Albert Camus.

The book briefly details the life of a man, Meursault, before and after he murders another man on an Algerian beach.  The story is told in the terse, detached style of other romans noir of the time, such as James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice.  When I first read these books at 18, this style thrilled hell out of me. Continue reading

Book Review: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King

This morning I finished reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print.  The book is assigned reading for a novel writing course I am taking at The Writer’s Center.

The book is a very quick read.  The chapters are short, come with check lists and reminders, and also include exercises.  (Presumably you are supposed to do these before proceeding to the next chapter.  I never do that, though probably I should.)  And despite the fact that the book contains pretty much the same information that any other book on editing and revising would (for example, “don’t tell, show“), it’s still pretty good. Continue reading