Tag Archives: Terry Pratchett

Serious comedy

So you think you're funny?

So you think you’re funny?

Sean McMullen|9 May 2015

Some years ago I was in the green room at a World SF convention when an organizer dashed in and asked me to chair a panel on comedy. Someone else was double booked, as I recall. I didn’t like the idea of doing something like that with no notice at all, but then I heard Terry Pratchett’s voice behind me. I turned around and called out:

“Hey Terry, want to chair a panel on comedy?”

“When?”

“In about thirty seconds.”

“Oh good, let’s go.”

Comedy Panel at Chicago Convention: L to R: George R.R. Martin, David Langford, Terry Pratchett, Sean McMullen

Comedy Panel at Chicago Convention: L to R: George R.R. Martin, David Langford, Terry Pratchett, Sean McMullen

We set off, preparing as we walked. More and more people fell in behind Terry as we made our way to the room, all looking very eager as the word spread: Pratchett’s going to talk about comedy! It was a bit like being in a Diskworld adventure … or maybe we really were there. The panel also featured George R.R. Martin and David Langford, and it went over very well. This may sound strange coming from a panelist, but I actually learned a lot about comedy in that hour.

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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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