Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Gerke’s The First Fifty Pages’

Ever wonder why most manuscripts are rejected?

The answer is easy, it is because of what is in or actually what isn’t in the first fifty pages.

This may seem unfair to judge something only on the first few pages. You should feel lucky if your book is rejected after an agent read the first fifty pages. Most manuscripts get rejected from the first line or paragraph.

Again, that may seem unfair, but if you had a hundred manuscripts in your slush pile to read through to make way for tomorrow hundred new submission, you would find tricks to move onto the next one.

Most agents and editors are actually hoping that the manuscript the pick up and read will give them a reason to keep reading. They aren’t looking to reject they want new material to publish.

You may be wondering why the first fifty pages matter on the first draft?

Good question. I have already said the purpose of the first draft is to get it written. We have covered the first line and first chapter already, which you can find (first line) here and (first chapter) here.

The best answer is, it doesn’t matter. Especially if you are writing your first ever first draft. Writing it is more important. What we are covering today is tips to make ways to make drafts 2 and beyond a little less work.

Let’s face it a lot of the reasons agents and editors reject manuscripts is because of a lot of things weren’t done in later drafts.

However, there are four important things if you make sure you have in the first draft, you won’t ever have to worry about adding it in in later drafts. Jeff Gerke writerThey are:

Jeff Gerke writer the book The First Fifty Pages, five things he looks for in a new book in the first fifty pages are:

  • Introduce your main character
  • Establish your story world
  • Set up the plot’s conflict
  • Begin your hero’s inner journey
  • Write an amazing opening line and terrific first page

Wait that is five things.

Yes, the last one is something to keep in the back of your mind while writing the first draft. After you write the first line and page, try to figure out how to make it better.

However, let this be done in the subconscious. We don’t want it to distract you from writing the rest of the first draft.

Let’s look at the other four things in a little more detail.

First, we need to introduce the main character. Now, this should be the first person we meet, usually.


That’s simple, it tells the reader that this person is important. If we don’t meet the main character quickly then we will wonder why. If you go the route of introducing the main character, later on, it still better be in the first fifty pages.

If you go the route of introducing the main character, later on, it still better be in the first fifty pages.

J.K. Rowling did this in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. We meet Uncle Veron Dursley and his wife Aunt Petunia. These two characters are very important in the Harry Potter world. How they treat Harry is what helps Harry determine who is a good person and who isn’t.

It is through Uncle Veron eyes we get the sense of something big has happened and it’s not normal. When we meet Harry at the end of chapter one and see he is the reason and is only a baby we understand he is special. Also, we feel sorry for him having to go live with such horrible people.

Next is you must establish the world that the story exists in.

If you have a world where magic exists, with magical creatures live in, and they don’t shot up until the last third of the book, what do you think is going to happen when the reader gets to that reveal?

Sure you can foreshadow it, but if done wrong it will piss off the reader and they will set the book down and never read it again.

Keeping with Harry Potter, Rowling showed hints of magic throughout the first chapter right up until we meet Dumbledore where he pulls light from lamp posts. Then Professor McGonagall morphs from a cat into a person. Then finally, we see Hagrid come in on a flying motorcycle. Clearly magic is possible in this world.

Clearly magic is possible in this world.

She tops it off when Harry himself uses magic for the first at the end of chapter two while he is at the zoo.

It is clearly established that this world has magic. Do the same with your story.

Third, you better set up the plot.

Does that mean we know where we are going or even how it will end?


What you need to do is make sure by the time we finish the book, the reader can look back at the beginning and see how it sets up what happens at the end.

Some of the worst set ups come half way through the manuscript and all that tells an agent is that you aren’t knowledgeable enough to know where your story starts.

Like the plot of the book, you need to introduce the characters internal journey. How are they going to change? Are they going to change

How are they going to change? Are they going to change

Are they going to change?

Is it for the best or worst?

All we need to know is what the character wants and why and how it might affect their actions throughout the story.

If you have those four things within your first draft, you are golden.

Sure they will probably need tweaking and maybe fleshing out.

What you won’t have to do is add any of them in.

Having to add one or more of those in, affects the rest of the book.

Here are a few other things that will help you in the editing process after you have completed the first draft. First thing on this list from  Writers Digest, is good to know.

Seeing Through the Veil was going to start with a dream scene.

  • Do you start with a dream scenario? Because that’s a quick path to rejection.
  • Does your story have an engaging hook?
  • Do you jump to a new viewpoint character too early?
  • Is there enough conflict?
  • Is there something at stake for your hero?
  • How strong is your first line? Make sure you lead off with something that will catch an agent or editor from the very beginning.
  • Are you telling instead of showing? Remember the old writing adage “show don’t tell.”
  • Double check your point-of-view. Make sure you don’t have any errors or shifts in POV.
  • Check for stilted dialogue.
  • Are there inadequate descriptions of characters and settings (or details that are introduced to the reader too late)?
  • Make sure your characters have depth.
  • Is there a lack of beats for pacing and description?
  • Are you going into flashbacks too early in the story?

We are not going to go over them, they are just there for you know for when you start to edit and polish the first fifty pages.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the first fifty pages. Please post a comment below, and if you liked what you read, please follow me. Today’s post is part of an ongoing series on First Drafts. You can find all the posts so far under the link First Drafts in the toolbar. I post a Weekly Writing Wrap-up every Monday on how my writing and story development week went. You can also find me on Twitter @timrgreenebooks.