Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Judged by the fifth line

Five Line Test

Some readers (and editors) will judge your book by the first five lines

Sean McMullen|5 January 2015

Like to know how it looks from the other side of the submissions desk? When I visited the late Peter MacNamara, publisher of Aphelion Press, he challenged me to score a pile of manuscripts out of ten by reading the first page. I gave very similar scores to his by reading the first four or five lines. None scored well. None of those first few lines had any sort of hook or intriguing elements, and there was little incentive to reader further. Was a masterpiece rejected for want of a well-written five lines? Sadly, we’ll never know…

Here are twenty lines from four novels. All of them contain hooks, though the hooks used by these authors are very different.

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