For Authors: Why a First Five Edit Might be for YOU

If you missed it, yesterday I announced that I was opening up my Content Editing broadly and getting back into the editing gig.

You can check out the what, how, how much, and my experience in that post HERE.

But, let’s talk about the WHY?

I’ve had several people already contact me about full-edits. At this time, I’m not taking on full-editing gigs. The time for those as I’d do them would make me a full-time editor fitting in my own writing when I could. And I’m a full-time author doing a second gig I love–and that’s how I’d like to keep it! Passion for both projects should be foremost.

So, five pages? That’s it? That’s all I need if I’m a writer to get moving?

Well, yes…and no.

Let’s talk about yes first since that’s why we’re here.

The first five pages have some really heavy lifiting to do. Even more so in this day of e-readers. Let’s walk through the heavy lifting items, then I’ll talk about different authors the First Five is a good idea for, then who might want something broader.


E-Readers Have Killed the Blurb Star.

First off, you’re welcome for the earworm. 😉

How many unread books do you have on your e-reader? Yeah, I don’t know either. But I do know that the majority of mine open to page one when I think, Hey! What’s this? Let’s check it out?

That means that as a reader I’m going into a new book blurbless. No idea beyond the title and if I’m familiar with the author’s name, perhaps some expectations.

That means that those opening pages have to answer a lot of expectation questions readers don’t even know they have pretty darn quickly.


Power Opens

A Power Open is going to do more than inform the reader what they’ve decided to read this evening. It’s going to establish several things immediately:

  • Premise
  • Hook
  • hook (yes, with a little h)
  • Readability
  • Consistency
  • Characterization
  • Plot clarity
  • POV
  • Likeability (yes, most people want to like their POV character – or relate to them in some way immediately)
  • Voice

Wooo boy! I’m tired just thinking of all that work your ms is going to do in the First Five, aren’t you?

But, everything listed above is vital to the First Five. They can’t come later or become more clear further in.

I’m not talking about reveals – because if you have a reveal setup, we’ll look at that too. I’m talking about the things that should unquestionably be clear.


Why First Five

We’ve discussed Power Opens, Reader Expectations, and the change in reading habits e-readers have created. But beyond that, what can a First Five do for different authors?

Let’s see!


New Writers

You’ve got your first (or millionth) manuscript done and you want to really nail it this time so you can get an agent, editor, or have a super-strong first indie release.

A First Five is great for the traditional authors because this is often all agents or editors ask to see initially. You have one chance to wow them.

Of course, you have one chance to wow readers too if you’re going indie. But, as an indie you can circle around with a strong book two and work your butt off with promo to overcome a poor book one release – but who wants to do that?


Contest Feedback

There are two types of contests for authors: Feedback and Prestige.

If you’re looking to enter a Prestige contest (like RWA’s Golden Heart) then you have only 50ish pages to wow-and-win. The open needs to do all the work. You can’t let the heartbreaking black moment or that touching reconciliation be what helps you final.

That being said, a lot of Feedback contests are entered for more than just feedback. Maybe you’re hoping to get in front of an agent or editor who are closed to submissions. Don’t throw away that entry fee – nail your open!


Feedback Test

One of the top specific struggles Jeannie Lin and I hear from people contacting us about why they picked up our book, Finding Your Writer’s Voice, is they are getting feedback that doesn’t line up with how they see their work.

A lot of time (sadly) it’s that their heroine isn’t likable. We have a section of this in the book, but this is a huge issue in a lot of genres. This issue specifically can be helped – if not completely fixed – in the Firsts Five.

Are your reviews saying “I just couldn’t get into it” – let’s figure out why.

Your beta readers’s feedback aren’t lining up? That’s a big one. It could be you’ve got a mish-mosh of beta readers who aren’t truly YOUR core readers. Or it could be you have an unclear open that isn’t striking a code with the all the readers it’s aimed at.


Experienced Authors

Let’s skip all the way to the other end of the spectrum. I’m sure if you’re on this sliding scale, you’ll see yourself somewhere.

You’re an experienced author. You know your stuff. You’ve gotten your own personal flaws out of the way, have a list of things you work through on edits and revisions. You work craft like it’s no one’s business. You have beta readers who do a great job telling you if you’re hitting your personal core reader expectations.

And, because you’re working your books from that direction, you don’t want to do/wait/pay for a full edit. But, opens….yeah, opens. You’d like to make sure that nothing has fallen through the cracks.

And…everyone in-between. 😉


Authors Who Know How To Run With It

A large portion of what you get for feedback in the First Five can be spread throughout your manuscript. If you know how to run with notes you’re going to get way more than five pages of knowledge from a First Five.

Beyond character & plot arcs, turning point notes, black moment feedback, and an overall read, the rest can be used.

All those things listed above (Voice, Characterization, etc)? If they’re off in the First Five, fixing them should be spread through your entire work. You can do it – I know you’ve got this!


Who a First Five Might Not Be Right For (Right Now)

I think basically everyone can strengthen their opens. I’m incredibly lucky that the people on my team feel the same way. About 70% of feedback notes I get from Jeannie are on the open – and vice versa.

BUT, if your issues are those that impact more broadly than the first five, then you might want to get a full content or crit.

Knowing what’s right for you is vital. But I’m a strong believer that you can never go wrong with a First Five – you just might need something else as well.


If you think a First Five might be right for you (or you’re just nosy, because that’s okay, too) you can view details on my services and experience HERE.






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