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While, I’m on vacation, I wanted to share a generous gift from Jeff Gerke. He appreciated my review of his fantastic book, The First 50 Pages. And generously extended an offer for 30 days of free access to his Fiction Academy to me and my readers!
FictionAcademy.com is an online training site that contains all his teachings on how to write great fiction. It’s part of the Bestseller Society, which can be considered conference in a box. I’m going to sign up in August when I get back from vacation.
When you’re subscribing to www.BestsellerSociety.com, enter the code “theanomaly” to get your free month.
Please note that you will be asked to enter your credit card number when you sign up, even if you’re using the code to get a free month. Once the 30 free days expire, you will automatically be charged $37/month. So make sure you set a reminder for yourself so you will remember to cancel your subscription before the 30 days run out. If you want to continue with a paid monthly subscription, do nothing and you will automatically be billed for your continuing access.
The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke is an insightful look at what agents and editors are truly looking for in the first 50 pages of a novel. The information is provided by an author/editor in an easy-to-understand manner.
I had the opportunity to hear Mr. Gerke speak at the Writer’s Digest Conference in January and I immediately jumped in line to get a copy of his book signed. He was a terrific speaker who provided lots of examples and explanations. His workshop was one of the best at the conference.
The first part of the book is dedicated to explaining the submission process. Some important points he raised are that your opening lines must hook the reader. He clarifies that starting with action isn’t about blowing stuff up or having someone’s life at risk. IT SIMPLY MEANS IT MUST BE INTERESTING TO THE READER.
He also talks of the three bombs: POV, show vs. tell, and character creation. A problem with any of these can blow up a book and not in an Oprah knocking on your door sort of way.
The rest of the book focuses on what your first 50 pages must do. And it’s a lot. A lot a lot. In this section he touches on how to engage your reader, introduce your main character, establish the main character’s normal, establish the story world’s normal, start the inner journey, and follow the Three Act structure.
As I read this book, I analyzed my two finished manuscripts and tried to think of where I’d missed the mark. Where I needed to work further on them. What was not working in their first 50 pages.
This is one of my favorite craft books because Jeff Gerke’s conversational presentation style is captured perfectly in these pages. I felt like he was talking right to me and sharing his personal experiences. He used lots of movies as examples which made concepts much easier to grasp and apply later to my own work.
This is a must read for any writer submitting their work to agents and editors.
Jeff Gerke’s panel on The First Fifty Pages was an intimate look into the mind of an editor. I was so impressed I bought his book,The First Fifty Pages, at the Writer’s Digest Conference and had him sign it.
He has a unique perspective being that he is a multi-published author and is now an editor at his own publishing house.
He explained that the first fifty pages have to:
*Engage the reader
*Introduce the hero
*Introduce the main character
*Establish context for story (establish the normal before violating the normal) Note: this is something others may disagree over.
*Reveal story world
*Set tone for book
*Present the stakes
*Start the time bomb (build reader anticipation about the terrible thing that will happen)
*Start the hero’s inner journey
*Inciting incident must happen
*Set up Act 2
*Set up circularity (something you will refer back to at end to give rear feeling of completeness.)
Wow. That’s an impressive to-do list for the first fifty pages.
He then moved on to discussing what goes on inside the editor’s mind. There are a couple chapters in his book on this too.
The key points I took away were:
1) The agent culls the best manuscripts to submit to acquisitions editor.
2) Editors are given the work of acquisitions but no time to do it. They read your submission over lunch or at home.
3) Editors have to consider marketability because sales mean the editors publishing house does well and editor keeps his job.
4) A contracted and published book may only have 1 person in publishing house who read the entire manuscript.
He talked about the four ways to begin a novel:
1) Prologues(e.g., Mulan movie)
2) Hero action (e.g., Indiana Jones)
3) In Media Res (e.g., One Day) this is where you start in the middle and flash back to past, telling story up to the point you started at and usually further forward.
4) Frame device (e.g., The Notebook)
Method 1&2 are the most popular ways to open a novel.
The key thing about a prologue is that it must be used properly to open the book.and it’s important to remember agents have a strong dislike of prologues.
The reason prologues have such a bad wrap is because many new writers use them incorrectly. He said prologues are bad if they are full of backstory and can be consider an info dump.
He also offered a 4 hour bootcamp session, which I unfortunately hadn’t signed up for. I figured my mind would be mush by then. It kinda was.
Though the powerful and captivating speaker, Chris Baty, gave a rousing closing remarks that energized me for my Central Park walk with Emmie.