The First Five Chapters

If you’ve been writing any length of time, you’ve heard of Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages. Essentially, Mr. Lukeman states that agents must be hooked on the first five pages to ever ask for more of your manuscript.

But what of readers? I know that I’ll give about any book more than five pages. I’ll give them more than the first chapter. Unless the book isn’t what I thought is was at all, or the characters or writing isn’t my taste at all, I’ll give the author five chapters.

I’m wondering if I’m alone in giving an author so many pages or chapters to keep me reading. It seems to me that more reviewers on blogs, Amazon, etc., are complaining about books that start slow. I’m looking back at some of my favorite authors and I guess that by ‘today’s’ standards, they’re slower than turtles stampeding through peanut butter in January.

This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy a book that jumps right smack into the heart of things. I do. But, as long as the writing is good and the story has an initial hook, the author has a certain grace period with me. In some cases, I think that books that leap into action never fully develop the plot or characters enough for my tastes. It can’t just be a bunch of stuff happening or snappy dialog. The story has to build a certain ‘depth’ to it.

How about you? How long does an author have to draw you into their story? Will you read two, three, four, or even five chapters of a book if the premise is interesting but things aren’t happening at a quick pace?


6 thoughts on “The First Five Chapters

  1. Some of the best stories start slow. But… I don’t think you have to hook an agent with action. You have to hook them with the writing. Even if it does start slow.

    Maybe that is different these days. I just don’t know.

    Usually I don’t put books down even if I don’t like them. Weird I guess.

  2. To be honest I tend to give the book 100 pages. If I’m not grabbed by then I will finish it but it might go on the back burner to finish when I can be bothered.

  3. I hate to admit it but…when I’m buying books at the bookstore, I give it one paragraph…maybe the first page – that’s it!

    If it’s an author I know and like I buy it without a preview…usually.

    As a writer myself I hope that I can hook my reader in the first page but I know that it’s hard to do…I can only hope that not every reader is like me and gives an author more of a chance.

  4. I like to give writers a fairly long try – at least the first third of the book, if I like the way it’s written. The start with a bang idea is okay for certain kinds of books – mysteries for instance, but if it’s a mainstream novel, I’m happy to ease into it. I do think it likely that books which start slowly have a harder time getting published, and that’s not wonderful, but it’s reality, I guess.

  5. I choose books based on the description on the back, because I know the kind of books I like.

    And once I start reading, it takes a lot to get me to stop reading and put it down. I’ll usually at least skip ahead and read the last chapter to see how it ends, and sometimes what I find there will make me to back and read another couple of chapters.

    I think the 5 pages thing is more relevant to editors and agents than to readers. I certainly give a book a lot more than five pages to grab me!! I mean it’s great when a story can suck me in that fast, but it doesn’t happen all that often.


  6. For me it depends. If I’m thinking about buying a book in the bookstore, I’ll read a couple paragraphs. SOMETHING has to hook me then and there. For instance, when I was debating between Hunger Games and another book (I don’t remember what), I read a few paragraphs of each. Some intangible thing about Hunger Games just grabbed me.

    Now, if I already HAVE the book, I’ll give it longer … usually. Sometimes I know in less time not that I don’t like the book, but that it isn’t the right book for me at that time. If I kept reading I’d struggle through the book and be overly critical of it. If I wait for another time though, I might love it.

    If it isn’t a timing issue, I try to give the book about 100 pages. I figure if the author hasn’t hooked me completely by then, I’m free to put the book aside without feeling bad about it.

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