Manuscript revision – Part 2

The First Five Pages by Noah LukemanBased on the number of shares on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, Manuscript Revision – advice from a pro was quite popular. Here’s part 2 based on Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages.


  • Hooks are propellants and help set expectations for readers.
  • Hooks can also establish character, narrator, or setting and convey a shocking piece of information
  • They apply to opening lines, paragraphs, pages and chapters. Chapter hooks are important.
  • Set the tone for the book
  • Strive for maintained intensity throughout the story, not just the intensity of the first line/paragraph.
  • “Don’t write an opening for the sake of the opening, but for the sake of the story that follows.”
  • Dialogue as the opening hook is very hard to do.
  • Keep hooks going throughout the novel.


  • An unsubtle MS will have an inflated feel—inflated with superfluous words, phrases, dialogue, and run-on scenes (scenes that are far too long)
  • Less is more; Leave some things unsaid; be minimalist
  • If you underestimate your reader, you alienate him/her.
  • Discipline yourself to withhold information
  • Embrace confusion; leave a little mystery


  • Tone – witty, mocking, sarcastic, serious, intimate, nostalgic, angry, brazen, arrogant, condescending, formal, stuffy, serious, self-important, happy, sad – is the voice behind the sound and style of your work
  • Tone needs to suit the manuscript and the purpose of your text
  • Tone needs to suit the narrator/protagonist


  • “Each chapter must be thought of as its own complete unit, ready to excerpt should a magazine want it.” Keep this thought in mind for paragraphs and sentences as well.
  • Do you resolve in the end of the chapter what you establish in the beginning?
  • Paragraphs should have a beginning-middle-end just like chapters do.
  • Events that are introduced should be resolved.
  • If a sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter does not further the intention of progression of the work, it should be cut.
  • Don’t introduce characters without telling us what happens to them.
  • Don’t introduce a harrowing event without telling the reader the outcome.
  • Review every chapter/scene/paragraph to see if it meets the goals set out.
  • Check that the puzzle of sentences, paragraphs, scenes and chapters are focused as a whole (like puzzle pieces).


  • Settings must not stop the flow of the narrative.
  • Settings must come to life.
  • Characters should interact with their settings.
  • Settings should have an effect on characters.
  • Unfold settings slowly.
  • Most settings are brought to life through tiny details (a cobweb in the corner, a stain on the carpet, a broken window pane).
  • Draw on all five senses when bringing a setting to life – smell, sound, sight/light, feeling, taste.

Pacing and Progression

  • High stakes (tension) are part of pacing.
  • Pacing is off if you take too long getting from A to B to C in plot development.
  • Too much telling and too much description slow the pace.
  • Dialogue accelerates pace .. but watch out for too much dialogue in your text.
  • Look for places where pacing is too fast and those where it is too slow.

I’ve written two other posts on pacing: Take it Slow, Take it Fast and Ten Thoughts About Pacing Your Novel.

I hope these notes from Noah Lukeman’s book are helpful.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

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