Friday, September 16, 2016

#FridayReads : Sharpen Your Editing Skills with Noah Lukeman

Noah Lukeman started as an editor for a major publishing company before becoming a literary agent. He is often a guest speaker on topics related to writing and publishing. The Plot Thickens and The First Five Pages are my favourites of his writing craft and editing books.

Working through The Plot Thickens  is most valuable after fully completing a first draft, because we learn best from our own mistakes, and those going for the second round will have many lightbulb moments ahead of the revision or rewrite. 

The Plot Thickens starts by re-developing the characters in your work and how the character changes through the book. Lukeman provides hundreds of questions to consider across every facet of a character. Not every question or topic will apply to every character, but his prompts are bound to help you develop extra information about your character that you can use in your work.

As you work through the questions, take each insight back to the plot of your book and consider how you can use the character traits you’ve uncovered to manipulate the plot. These writing chapters end in exercises to help you work through the points covered. If you’re battling for ideas, these questions and exercises will help to generate some and consolidate the ideas you do have into workable plots.

The final two chapters are editorial advice on what you might need to edit out of your work, or capture to make it shine even more brightly. Noah Lukeman offers this advice from his time as an editor and literary agent. The First Five Pages expands on this in a handy checklist format covering everything from Adjectives and Adverbs, to Dialogue, to Tone and Pacing. (The title of this book always makes me scratch my head. What about the rest of the manuscript? Don’t stop editing at page six, is my advice.)

It is worth remembering that Lukeman is not a writer himself, but this fact is only noticeable in a few of his comments. It is his experience on the reading, editing, and selling ends of the publishing chain that is of real value in his books.

Review by Elle Carter Neal


  1. Wow! Both books sound like must-have tools for self-editors. Great post, Elle!

  2. I like his books - are these updated titles, Elle? I'm pretty sure I've got The First Five Pages on my bookshelf, and have had it for a few years.

    1. Yes, it's fairly old, but still relevant if you ignore the worshipping of traditional publishing. The Art of Punctuation is his latest book.

  3. Have to add to my writer's collection. Thanks for the reviews of these.

  4. I've also had The First Five Pages for ages. That's all some agents give a submission, so it better be good. I'm sure I could use The Plot Thickens right now. Thanks, Elle, for this post.

    1. I've generated a few nice ideas and twists using some of the prompt questions from Plot Thickens. It might not be for everyone, but it's worth working through at least once to see.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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