The first 50 pages
Book Review

The First 50 Pages: Recommended

The Manuscript Shredder recommends The First 50 Pages

If you are trying to get your manuscript published, you are likely trying to land an agent. Agents will judge your entire book on the quality of your partial. This means you have just a few pages to hook an agent’s interest. The First 50 Pages (the typical length of a partial) is intended to point out every way you are ruining your manuscript, and then guide you through ways to fix those problems.

Why do I need this book?

The book covers everything your opening pages need to accomplishThe first 50 pages

  1. How to engage your reader
  2. Introducing your Main Character
  3. Establishing normal
  4. Setting up character arcs
  5. Opening lines
  6. First pages
  7. and much more

All with clear instruction, easy to follow examples and a conversational tone that is fun to read. I especially appreciated that many of the examples came from movies, rather than books. Why? The likelihood that someone has seen a popular movie is much higher than a popular book. Even well-read people tend to stick to a preferred genre. I’ve had problems with other guides drawing examples from books I haven’t read, making the examples meaningless.

This book is especially useful for the beginner. I’ve had a copy on my shelf for years, and I still pull it down as a reference. Most of the opening chapters I critique have the same issues Gerke covers in this reference.

What’s great

Clear, precise instructions with examples. As a writing blogger, I understand the need for good examples to illustrate writing techniques. Gerke follows up his instructions with examples of how the amateur gets it wrong and what you should do instead.

Topics are confined to their chapter, rather than showing up as snippets throughout the book. This makes the book more useful as a reference. You get detailed instructions on a narrow topic before Gerke introduces something new. If you need to read up on a specific topic, you can get complete information in one chapter, rather than having it spread across the entire book.

This book can also be read from beginning to end. Topics are organized in the order a writer will need them. While on first glance having the chapter on the opening page near the end of the book may seem counterintuitive, a seasoned writer will know that those topics in earlier chapters must be considered before writing that first page. Gerke intentionally places this chapter toward the end to make sure the writer knows what she must accomplish before she even begins writing.

What’s not so great

Honestly, very little. A few of the examples felt phoned it, but they still accomplished their goals, so I have no real complaints.


The First 50 Pages is one of my favorite writing books for the beginner. Gerke’s clean, conversational writing style makes the secrets of the craft accessible to anyone. If you are looking for a guide for polishing up your partial consider adding The First 50 Pages to your writing library today.

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M.L. Keller is a freelance writer and editor. Her blog "The Manuscript Shredder" is focused on helping emerging writers hone their craft.


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