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Reviews of Noah Lukeman's Books

The First Five Pages

 "Novice and amateur writers alike will benefit from literary agent Lukeman’s lucid advice in this handy, inexpensive little book. Carrying the craft of writing beyond Strunk and White’s classic Elements of Style, this book should find a wide audience: public libraries sponsoring writers’ groups and workshops will want multiple copies."
--Library Journal (Highly Recommended)

"Intelligent, important, valuable and entertaining instructions....It should be read by all novice writers--and by those whose books are already published but intend to write more."
--Richard Marek, Former Editorial Director of Kirkus Reviews

"I have to tell you, [The First Five Pages] is one of the best [books] I’ve read. I’ve written (and seen published) pretty close to a dozen novels in as many years… but I wish I had read Lukeman’s book when I began writing fiction. I’m glad I did now. It has helped, immediately….Lukeman’s editorial eye is sharp. If every novelist and short story writer in this country had Lukeman as an editor, we’d have a lot more readable prose out there.… The First Five Pages should be on every writer’s shelf. This is the real thing."
--Barnes & Noble Writers Workshop

 

"The difference between The First Five Pages and most books on writing is that the others are written by teachers and writers. This one comes from a literary agent--one whose clients include Pulitzer Prize nominees, New York Times bestselling authors, Pushcart Prize recipients, and American Book Award winners…. Lukeman has plenty of solid advice worth listening to. Particularly fine are his exercises for removing and spicing up modifiers and his remedies for all kinds of faulty dialogue."
--Amazon.com Editorial Department (featured book)

"The First Five Pages is most useful in its guidance on preparing and submitting your work. Lukeman grinds his teeth over amateurish writing, too, and offers practical corrections."
--Detroit Free Press

"Here are two books about the craft of writing which, in our opinion, far surpass most books on that subject....The one that appealed more strongly to this reader (and closet writer) is literary agent Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages."
--Taconic Syndicated Newspapers ("Must Reads")

"Tricks of the trade…add to The First Five Pages’ value, as do tips on grammar, style, voice and dialog, and writing exercises…A bargain when you consider all the information packed into [it]."
--San Antonio Express-News 

"Noah Lukeman has compiled the ultimate writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile.….This is no ordinary writing book. Lukeman has stared at thousands of manuscripts, and he can pick out poor ones with a glance….Lukeman has done a great service to the writing community by providing this glimpse into the abyss…. The First Five Pages is worth its weight in gold, and should be read by all experienced and unpublished authors."
--
InscriptionsMagazine.com
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

"Lukeman’s book is a gutsy reminder.…New writers will pore over his exercises in detail, while more skilled writers will use them to throw new light on specific problem areas….Lukeman is in fact offering a much larger opportunity to any writer who wants to seize it….It’s an excellent book and at such a reasonable price it’s also a great investment."
--Rosedog.com

"Wonderful advice….I was amazed reading it…I was terribly impressed….The book neatly describes the majority of what I personally find wrong with beginners’ (even much professional) writing….The title is from the widely practiced, but perhaps not as widely known, concept that you only have the first few pages to make an impression….This is the book to read….I agree with him so much, and like it so well, my only regret is that I didn’t write it myself."
--Critters.org
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

"In the world of writers’ how-to books, you are often confronted with hyperbole and rash promises when what you need is practicality and frank advice. With Lukeman, a veteran literary agent, you get just what you need…Sensible (occasionally unorthodox) solutions and apt quotes are offered...Lukeman is unflinchingly realistic, but compassionate as well. He recognizes the determination and devotion that writing requires. Pragmatic, intelligent and readable, The First Five Pages …will certainly help writers of any kind defeat rejection and possibly score."
--Writers.com
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

"Lukeman knows the publishing industry from the inside out and the outside in.… The First Five Pages is an entertaining example of good literary style delivered by a qualified expert on selling or not selling books to publishers."
--FictionForest.com
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

"When you read The First Five Pages, you’ll hope Noah Lukeman will one day teach us more. …I don’t usually praise books on writer’s craft on my site…but The First Five Pages is exceptional… I read The First Five Pages in two sittings (and plan to read it again). I own about 100 books on craft…In my opinion, yours ranks among the best."
--Prairieden.com
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

"A small book in size only, this one is well worth the price. I read every page the day I bought it, then immediately started rewriting the first three pages of my novel.…I highly recommend this book for writers who hope to publish and will deal with editors and agents."
--The Writer’s Roost

"Noah Lukeman has great insight into what it takes to keep an editor reading your manuscript. Writers will definitely benefit from a thorough study of Lukeman’s many suggestions which can help them get past the first hurdle to getting published."
--WritersWrite.com

"Mr. Lukeman has written a definitive handbook on the pitfalls to avoid in your work..…The information contained within its covers will help you improve your technique and perhaps provide you with the tools to make your story leap off the pages. As writer, I found this book to be extremely useful….I highly recommend The First Five Pages to anyone who is serious about their writing."
Planet Showbiz (Featured selection)

"In this well-organized, clear and pointed guide, Lukeman - himself a literary agent who has evaluated thousands of scripts - details how to quickly create a positive first impression and keep out of the reject pile. With exercises at the end of each chapter, this invaluable reference will help all types of writers-novelists, journalists, even poets-improve their technique, overcome bad writing and attract attention."
--The Writers Store

"There are hundreds of good books that explain how to write. Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages is different. Lukeman’s approach is methodical and practical, beginning with presentation and working through common blunders with modifiers, style, dialogue, point of view, characters, tone, focus and pacing..... Let’s hope for a sequel..... The First Five Pages is an excellent resource that writers should keep on their shelves. The chapters on repairing dialogue (including "informative," "commonplace," "melodramatic" and "hard to follow") are especially fine, full of insights that I haven’t seen elsewhere….And even though his task is to explain all the things that writers do wrong, it’s clear that Lukeman genuinely likes us and understands what makes us keep writing, even in the face of repeated rejection."
--Downtownwriters.com

"If you write fiction, this one is a must! Lukeman works his way from the most obvious to the most subtle, telling just what agents look for to give them an excuse to reject your manuscript."
--Homestead.com

"[The First Five Pages] is a dandy little writing manual that serves as an excellent checklist of a manuscript’s health….It will give you new eyes with which to view your book. ..This book is a gold mine for the fledgling writer….Lukeman not only details what should and shouldn’t be done, but often explains why. Having identified the problems, he offers solutions and provides numerous examples and end-of-chapter exercises to assist in working on weak points. There is an vast scope of information in these pages, and in addition to being extremely helpful, it’s a fun read."
--AuthorShowcase.com

 

The Plot Thickens

"THE PLOT THICKENS is one of the best-ever books about the craft of writing. It is a book that can change the world of every writer who embraces Lukeman's ideas. His classroom on paper should be on every writer’s shelf to be read again and again. The book is a personal gift from a master agent who truly cares not only about the written word, but most of all, about the people who struggle to convey ideas upon the printed page."
Authorlink

"Lukeman’s advice is practical—and often entails multiple, time-consuming steps—without a hint of the flakiness that creeps into many writing guides. Though Lukeman works with books, he wisely asserts that the observations in this volume are applicable to all types of imaginary writing, from film to poetry. Indeed, it is a worthy addition to any writer’s reference shelf."
--
Publishers Weekly

"...a crisply written, nicely detailed examination of the art of storytelling. Beginning writers will find plenty of practical tips and useful advice in its pages"
--
Booklist

"Lukeman's book succeeds because it takes a commonsense approach to plotting, one that centers on characters and a few basic elements such as conflict and suspense. THE PLOT THICKENS is a highly useful book that is written in an accessible style and filled with valuable examples. I recommend this for the aspiring novelist who needs a helpful guide to developing and creating vivid characters."
--
The Writer

"For those of us who have ever grappled with plot, THE PLOT THICKENS is a godsend. I never tire of reading Noah Lukeman's work because his voice is eloquent, insightful, practical, original, and sincere. The man has respect for literature and it shows. There is information in Noah Lukeman's books I have not read elsewhere. The most veteran author can learn from THE PLOT THICKENS. Beginners will find a gold mine. I wish I could have read this book years ago. THE PLOT THICKENS is not the type of book you want to check out from the library or borrow from a friend. It is the type of book you need to purchase so it can sit on your desk, dog-eared and underlined, worn from years of overuse. For the playwright, the screenwriter, the novelist, or the short-story writer, THE PLOT THICKENS is more than a book on craft, it's a tool."
--
Prairieden.com

"Conflict - the most difficult concept for new writers to understand. Lukeman does a masterful job of explaining this important aspect of plot development… Written with clarity, Lukeman nver talks down to his reader. His personable writing style elevates THE PLOT THICKENS from a text on writing to a written version of the mentor you always wished you could have."
--The Midwest Book Review

"THE PLOT THICKENS is wonderful!"
--
Writers Digest Book Club (Linda Walker, Editor)

"Fantastic book. Gives you lots of insight on how to write a great story. We at Hollywoodlitsales.com couldn't put it down. It was better than reading a great novel."
--Hollywoodlitsales.com

"I can think of countless novels that would have been improved by following the "8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life," which is full of practical common sense about how to write fiction and answers many of the difficult questions first novelists ask themselves."
--Michael Korda, Author of
Queenie, The Fortune, Making the List

"In his book THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, Noah Lukeman, one of the top literary agents in New York, gave writers a great gift. Now, in THE PLOT THICKENS, he shows writers how to build stories in which the plot emerges from fresh, alive, and intense characters. Both beginners and more advanced writers will find many wonderful, thought-provoking concepts and approaches here to help them hone their craft."
--James Frey, Author of
How to Write a Damn Good Novel and The Key

"Noah Lukeman keeps laser-like focus on the single most important principle of good writing: creating plot through the characters. THE PLOT THICKENS is a pleasure to read, and filled with useful information."
--John Truby, Truby's Writers Studio

"Brilliant. The Plot Thickens literally gears a person up to writing big-themed, deep, humorous, and varied fiction. Personable, buoyant, and very wise, The Plot Thickens made me feel wildly buoyed up with that joy that is particular to fiction-making. It pulls off the virtues we want in a writing handbook —succinct discussions of plot and character and tone, amazing lists of qualities to check for our characters, ways to build and keep suspense, ways to understand a character from the inside where people cleave to their own personalities as well as from the outside, where we act and speak. Lukeman’s help with characterization is better than that of other manual-writers because, page for page, he thinks more than other writing teachers, not just about writing books but about people."
--Carol Bly, author of
Beyond the Writers' Workshop

"THE PLOT THICKENS is my favorite kind of how-to-write book…Never high-handed or stuffy, the book is easy to read but thought provoking at the same time.…Mr. Lukeman takes you through many ways to increase tension and suspense in your work, as well as how conflict affects the storyline and how you can prolong it to keep the reader entranced.….His comments were very informative and insightful and could be used by all of us when it comes time to edit our novels. ….I highly recommend The Plot Thickens. …Read it slowly. Ponder the questions and the examples."
--FictionFactor.com

"THE PLOT THICKENS is a book that deserves a prominent place on any writer's bookshelf."
--FictionAddiction.Net

"The final two chapters deal with issues few are willing or able to cover in such a clear manner. Lukeman tackles the difficult task of trying to pinpoint exactly what qualities an extraordinary book possesses….Lukeman uses his experiences as an agent to create a book that will benefit all types of writers. Film and novel critics will find Lukeman's book to be an outstanding guide when analyzing story plot…The conversational style makes The Plot Thickens a pleasure to read; the compact size makes it convenient to transport. It is the type of book that every writer should own."
--AbsoluteWrite.com

"Well known literary agent Noah Lukeman's The Plot Thickens is different. The book is so well written--so tight and polished--that it provides a perfect example of its own principles. Lukeman's prose is so lucid that it manages to render even complex concepts like "transcendency" clear, and provides practical ways of incorporating character-driven plot and transcendency into your work. It would be a rare writer who didn't find his or her manuscript improving through application of Lukeman's extensive questions….Lukeman understands, in a way which only comes from extensive reading and editing, what makes for excellent, not just bestselling, fiction. His literary assistance can clearly make the difference between a good book (he won't take on anything less) and a work of art. If you aren't lucky enough to have him for your agent, he offers this book as a kind of "gift." Treat yourself to his superbly written reference guide....The Plot Thickens is a resource that fiction writers, both beginning and experienced, will return to repeatedly."
--TheCompulsiveReader.com (and NetAuthor.Org)

"Unlike most of us who read bad writing for a living, Noah has done something about it. The first two chapters, including writing exercises, enable authors to build complex characters from the ground up. New writers should especially benefit from these chapters…If Noah's book encourages more unique characters, that will be service enough….Chapter 5, Suspense, is one of the best how-to guides on the subject. I took notes; it's that good. He knows suspense and knows how to create and sustain it….Read this book cover to cover, then put it in the resource section of your personal library. When tempted to lift actors from central casting, or to retread a tired old tale, reach for The Plot Thickens instead and build something good from the ground up."
--QuantumMuse.com

"Anyone who loves to write character-driven plots will love this book! …..The Plot Thickens 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life is a book that not only an instruction book, it’s also an ideas book. What I particularly loved about this book was that the examples used came not only from books, but also from well-known movies….Plot is one of the hardest disciplines in the fiction writing field for many writers….The Plot Thickens 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life gives advice how to achieve this in the most natural way possible….An easy to read book that can be read from start to finish, or which can be delved into whenever you’re blocked for an idea on where your plot should go next, The Plot Thickens 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life is a guide that will complement any writer’s reference shelf."
--Womenonwriting.com

"Eight step, common sense doctrine beneficial for advanced writers, but best suited for freshman novelists….Lukeman, a literary agent, piles on the wisdom and warmth, leaving writers with both a newfound, viable toolset — and vibrant inspiration."
--The Boox Review

"Noah Lukeman offers novelists a superb writing tool! THE PLOT THICKENS is THE book to read for anyone who wants to really learn and improve their fiction."
--National Association of Women Writers
Sheri' McConnell, MAOM, Founder & President

"Lukeman's strength lies in his concise, direct treatment of the subject along with his thought-provoking questions that prod the reader to dig deeper into their own stories. He freely passes along the wisdom he's gained in the industry, and his every word is focused on the goal of creating publishable fiction. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to read this book without walking away with ideas to deepen and to improve your own stories, and this makes THE PLOT THICKENS an excellent investment for the serious writer."
--Romance Writers of America (Nashville)

"Perhaps my favorite lesson in The Plot Thickens was on transcendency, or the ability of the work to "leave a deep, lasting impression on the audience." Lukeman lists character multidimensionality, timelessness, and relatability, among others, as aspects of a transcendent work and gives examples of novels (and films) which have risen above space and time to affect audiences for generations. The most interesting ideas come when he discusses the conscious and unconscious motivation behind writing and the emotions that fuel this motivation…..The thing that struck me about Mr. Lukeman’s book is that he has broken down, defined, and given a vocabulary to an intuitive process."
--WritersMonthly

"Lukeman's book is being called an innovative and fresh way to help writers jazz up their plotting techniques. Need a good present for your birthday? This is it!"
--Shades of Romance Magazine

 

A Dash of Style

 

“A DASH OF STYLE is a straightforward and thoughfully written guide that will be useful to any writer who wants to gain better control over the tools of the craft. This is great, down-to-earth advice that never becomes overly prescriptive, from a guy who knows his business. I recommend it highly!”
--Dan Chaon, National Book Award Finalist, author of You Remind me of Me


“Here’s a book that offers not only the mechanics of punctuation, but the means to make your writing soar.”
--Alexander Steele
Dean of Faculty, Gotham Writers’ Workshop

“I've read A DASH OF STYLE by Noah Lukeman: but I am far from done with it. This is not a rule book, neither is it a delightful series of stories about commas and colons. (Not that it's not delightful.) This is what we writers have been waiting for -- a book that takes the straight jacket off of punctuation and instead offers it up as a series of creative writing tools. Complete with exercises that make you think, rethink, consider and see your own work in a new light; Lukeman's wit and insight make this an instant classic.”
--International Bestseller M.J. Rose, author of The Delilah Complex 


“I’ve never seen punctuation elucidated in such a directly helpful manner. All creative writers, from the just-starting-out to the most stylistically sophisticated, will benefit from Lukeman’s savvy advice in A DASH OF STYLE.”
--Therese Eiben, former Editor of Poets & Writers, editor of The Practical Writer,
Creative Writing teacher at William Patterson University

“A DASH OF STYLE is the contemporary book on the subject. It puts plunk down everything you need to know about punctuation in one place where you can find it.”
--Carol Bly
legendary writing teacher and author of many critically-acclaimed books, including Beyond the Writers Workshop (Knopf)


“Noah Lukeman's witty, learned, and practical A DASH OF STYLE is a master class in the expressive uses of punctuation to organize and orchestrate the reader's felt experience of your thinking. The creative exercises at the end of each chapter are particularly astute ways of helping you develop a feel for the music of prose.”
--John Burt
Professor of English and Creative Writing at Brandeis University, author of The Way Down and Work Without Hope


“Lukeman’s writing always struck me as being clean. Clean as in elegant.  But this time, more so. A DASH OF STYLE has a gorgeously direct and confidently-clarified writing style. This is so rare. There is a basic wonderful genuineness and honesty to the book, and plain real intelligence. The tone of the body of the text is strong and muscular, yes muscular. It's not an 'advice' book, it's a how-to, a real how-to. I especially loved the section on paragraphs and section breaks. I'd love to use it in a workshop.”
--Ellen Cooney
former teacher of creative writing at Harvard University (extension school) and M.I.T., and author of many critically-acclaimed novels


“Noah Lukeman makes a case for punctuation as being instrumental in revealing the soul of a writer; he compares punctuation to musical composition, and sees the combination of commas, colons, semi-colons, dashes, ellipsis, question marks, italics, hyphens, quotations marks and full stops as a writer’s version of a symphony. What keeps A DASH OF STYLE enjoyable are the examples Lukeman selects to illustrate his points. We get to compare and contrast the illuminating styles of writers as diverse as Hemingway, Kafka, Joyce, Shakespeare, Melville, Faulkner, Poe, Forster, Lessing, Crane, Carver, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and T.S. Eliot. Lukeman allows us to consider punctuation as a prelude to great writing. Certainly worthy of an exclamation point. Or two!!”
--Lawrence Grobel
lecturer on interviewing and the Literature of Journalism at UCLA, New York Times Bestselling author of The Art of the Interview, The Hustons and Al Pacino

“A DASH OF STYLE reinforces the notion that punctuation is an essential aspect of fiction (as well as other creative genres). It is not only instructive in terms of how punctuation can be used, which in itself makes it worth reading, but it demonstrates (often with the use of fine examples drawn from great works of literature) how much punctuation contributes to the true character of a piece of writing. It is a terrific book. In fact, it's flawless.”
--John Smolens
Professor of Creative Writing at the MFA Program at Northern Michigan University, and author of many critically-acclaimed novels

“I finished A DASH OF STYLE in two sittings. It is very lucid, wonderfully written, and flexible. It explains simply, giving clear, concrete examples, both from the quotidian and from great literature. The sections on the colon and semicolon are the best I’ve ever seen. It's also a damn good read, as well as being pithy, elegant, smart, and absolutely unpretentious. The writing is lively and vivid throughout. Nabokov said somewhere that if you pick up a line of prose and it tingles, then you know it's alive. The prose tingles throughout, and we never feel we’re reading a book about punctuation at all. Best of all, it never condescends to or makes the reader feel stupid. It’s wise, funny, entertaining, and my students could gain so much from it.  That I think is the highest praise you could offer such a book.”
--Paul Cody
Professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College, legendary writing teacher, and author of many critically-acclaimed novels


"Lukeman has managed to produce a page turning book on the art of punctuation. It's a great resource for creative writers and teachers. What I like most about this original book--as a teacher and novelist--is that Lukeman includes numerous examples of brilliant prose by an exhaustive collection of writers (Faulkner, Hemmingway, Camus) to illustrate his insights, so that one comes away from reading each chapter feeling inspired."
--Brian Ascalon Roley
Assistant Professor, Department of English, Miami University (Ohio), critically-acclaimed author of American Son

“A DASH OF STYLE is a book about punctuation that is actually a book about writing itself. Lukeman gives the lie to the idea that learning grammar and punctuation don’t improve writing. Most punctuation books are indifferent to the quality of the examples chosen, but Lukeman shows punctuation working within the context of real writing, glorious writing. Reading this book, you can’t tell whether you’re learning how writers write or how punctuation works—which is, of course, precisely the point. College students, creative writing students, teachers frustrated with boring punctuation exercises, and all writers who simply want to be reminded of the intimate connection between punctuation and powerful writing ought to read this book.”
--Kent Meyers, critically-acclaimed author of several novels, including The Work of Wolves
Writer-in-Residence at Black Hills State University and faculty member in Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier MFA Writing Program

“At long last, we writers and writing teachers, lesser lords, perhaps, of punctuation, have something to really celebrate! Lukeman’s A DASH OF STYLE is neither a perfunctory how-to on the art of punctuation, a one-size-fits-all comma manual, nor is it an anecdotally-cute collection of grammatical do’s and don’ts. Lukeman’s A DASH OF STYLE bubbles up from the natural percolation of a life’s-worth of reading by a prodigious reader with perfect pitch. This book is written, pure and simple, out of the author’s obvious and infectious love for literature, and reading it reacquainted me with my own. From Conrad to Camus, from Shakespeare to Shaw, I felt less like I was reading a book on the art of punctuation and more like I was reading these great writers from an intimate’s point of view. My only quarrel is with the author’s mother, who should have produced him twenty years earlier so that I could have used this book for the last twenty years I’ve been teaching fiction workshops.”
--Phyllis Moore, Director of Creative Writing, Kansas City Art Institute
critically-acclaimed author of A Compendium of Skirts

“After teaching literature and writing for ten years at Rutgers University, The University of Iowa, and Clarke College, I thought I knew everything there is to know about teaching punctuation. Lukeman's A DASH OF STYLE taught me otherwise. Whether one wishes to write fiction, poetry, drama, screenplays, or just great English, Lukeman's third book masterfully unveils how punctuation affects the minds and emotions of readers. A DASH OF STYLE needs to be on every aspiring and accomplished author's work desk!”
--Dr. Ervin Nieves
Department of English, Clarke College, Dubuque, Iowa

“As both a teacher and creative writer I found A DASH OF STYLE to be as clear and beautifully written as Lukeman’s first two books. Once again, he has composed a text that is perfectly organized, conveys important but subtle truths, and is unique in perspective. I will recommend the book to my students and perhaps give it as a gift to friends who write. A punctuation book for the creative writer. What a great idea.”
--Laura Oliver
Adjunct English Faculty, University of Maryland

“Lukeman has answered my unuttered cry for a punctuation guide for creative writers. In fact, I hadn't realized that I needed it until now. My students fail to understand the need for punctuation, and I have relied on grammar books from English composition—painfully inadequate and misleading for fiction. A DASH OF STYLE is a delightful shift. I see genius at work here.”
--Dr. Peggy Brown
Professor, Collin County Community College, Georgia

"One of the Best Writing Books of the Year."
--The Writer, December, 2006

"Lukeman offers literary examples from major writers like Mark Twain, while [Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ Lynne] Truss dissects poorly punctuated public signs. The Writing Exercises ideas are Lukeman's best contribution, and particularly for these, this work is recommended for academic and large public libraries.”
--Library Journal, May 15, 2006

“Two years ago I reviewed Lynne Truss’s enormously successful book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which reviewed punctuation in a masterly way. Do we need another book on punctuation so soon? Well, yes. This book is aimed at a different audience and is about a different aspect of punctuation.”
--European Science Editing, May 2006

“[Lukeman] provides incredible insight for those individuals endeavoring to entertain and inspire future generations with their words.”
--Amazon.com editorial team
(referring to an Amazon shorts excerpt of A DASH OF STYLE)

“This delightful book should be read by every writer. Lukeman, a literary agent, approaches punctuation not as a series of rules to be memorized but as a set of goals that the writer is trying to achieve. Read this, and your attitude towards periods, commas, and all their pals will never be the same.”
--Book Passage, October 2007

“Like a syntactical phrenologist, Lukeman reads character from preferences in punctuation.”
--The Independent (UK), May 20, 2007

“More than just a style guide, A DASH OF STYLE discusses how creative writers can use punctuation for artistic effect. Lukeman, a literary agent and author of bestselling writing manuals, explores such questions as how dashes enhance Emily Dickinson's poems, or how Melville used semicolons to convey tension in Moby Dick. Includes writing exercises.”
--WinningWriters.com (a selection of Writers Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers)
Recommended Nonfiction, March 2006

“Lukeman provides a wealth of wisdom on how to use punctuation—not as mere grammatical squiggles on the page, but as important creative tools for our craft. And he writes from real-world experience on two sides of the publishing desk. Lukeman's [previous] works stand way ahead of the usual how-to books, precisely because Lukeman himself is a thorough teacher and a highly creative thinker. Now comes A DASH OF STYLE, another necessary volume for the serious writer's library. Far from being another boring reference book, A DASH OF STYLE looks at punctuation in a kind of upside down, inside out, entertaining manner, from a perspective one may never have viewed before. The lessons are invaluable for writers who want to improve both the way they think, and consequently the way they write. A DASH OF STYLE is a truly exciting way to view what once seemed like tedious old periods and commas.”
--Authorlink
(
click here to read the complete review)

“What Lukeman seeks to do is move grammar away from the rote rules of language and into the melodic prose creative writers can relate to. For those looking for a new way to approach this necessary aspect of writing, Lukeman may have found a way to break down the barriers to good grammar.”
--Romantic Times Magazine

“Punctuation can make all the difference between a good piece of writing and a superb piece of writing. In A DASH OF STYLE, Noah Lukeman explores and demystifies each punctuation mark in turn. From the punchiness of the full stop to the unacknowledged flexibility of the question mark, the manifold powers of punctuation are revealed in this practical yet engaging guide. All kinds of writers will find invaluable tips to help improve their clarity of thinking and expression of ideas. A DASH OF STYLE will teach writers how to use punctuation to the greatest effect, regardless of the context in which they are writing. Real examples from all types of well-known writers past and present are used to illustrate specific points. Each chapter also contains practical exercises to help writers get to grips with their own writing following the advice given in the book, making it ideal of use alongside creative writing courses and for teachers. Written by a well-known and respected author of books on creative writing, A DASH OF STYLE is the essential guide to using punctuation creatively and effectively.”
--The Westminster Bookshop

"Mr. Lukeman is a New York literary agent. Not perhaps, the first person an English author would turn to for advice. But he's good. And so is his other book The First Five Pages."
--The Writers' Forum (UK)

“As a copy-editor myself, I believe that it is possible to make a distinction between using punctuation with scrupulous accuracy and using it accurately but with flexibility, to enhance the flow of a piece of prose in various ways…Hence, I was glad to see this book from Noah Lukeman, which is intended to explain the art of punctuation rather than the skill…Lukeman has an extremely keen and sensitive eye for sentence structure and a neat way of explaining things. He teaches by example, flags up the dangers of over- and under-use of various strategies, and sets exercises at the end of each chapter, to encourage the reader-writer to think carefully about how they work with sentences. It is a book that is well worth reading if you are the kind of writer who values that level of detail.”
--WritersServices.co.uk

“Finding a book on punctuation that is aimed at creative writers rather than grammarians is a nice change. Noah Lukeman looks at punctuation as an art form that can be used to improve a passage of writing, and he discusses each punctuation mark in its context. In the process, he analyses the way successful writers, both contemporary and from the past, have used punctuation creatively. The chapter on the semi-colon, for example, looks at how Edgar Alan Poe used the semi-colon to enhance word economy, discusses how Mark Twain’s use of the semi-colon enabled his readers to digest complex sentences, and shows how the same punctuation mark can serve to relieve choppiness within a passage of short sentences. Punctuation, he argues, is a creative exercise. And at the conclusion of each chapter are end-of-chapter exercises that encourage you to look at your own manuscripts to analyse how you are using the punctuation mark discussed in the chapter and suggested exercises that will help you to use it to greater creative effect.”
--Writers News Magazine (UK)

“The unique selling point here is that there are no grammar lessons and no attempt to bore the reader with rules and conventions. Instead, Lukeman seeks to inform by showing examples of successful use by well-known authors. And it is aimed at creative writers, who I suspect will enjoy this approach.…He starts off with an examination of what he rightly identifies as the ultimate basic set, which he calls 'the triumvirate' - the comma, semicolon, and the full stop. It's amazing how much there is to say about them….Readers unsure about punctuation are likely to profit from what he has to say….He illustrates his guidance with brief quotes from famous writers - all of which I think will make readers more sensitive to the subtleties of punctuation….He's quite good on quotation marks, and I think anyone writing character-based work would do well to look closely at the variety of different ways dialogue can be presented in prose fiction….The same is true of the paragraph….This is a non-technical and non-judgemental approach to the subject of how to give pace, flow, and cadence to your writing. It's also full of insider tips which he drops in from time to time.” 
--Mantex (UK)

“All of us studied punctuation in school, more or less successfully. How boring you must be thinking. But note the title – THE ART AND MASTERY. Here is not the general rules from high school. Here is how Joseph Conrad used the comma to masterly effect, and how writers like Gertrude Stein and Cormac McCarthy underused it for startling artistic purposes. Here is how E. M. Forster used the dash and how William Faulkner sometimes underused the period. We are taught in school that we have to follow the rules. This is a book that goes beyond that, it teaches you how to break the rules. But it's how to break the rules so that you can create the effect that you need for the moment you are creating. You might consider this a graduate course in punctuation oriented to the writer - and writer includes novelists, short story writers, poets, memoirists -- even the mundane copywriter doing advertising - perhaps especially him.”
--Booksonline.com

“A DASH OF STYLE explains the application of punctuation not just in technical terms but artistically and creatively as well. If you're looking for a basic grammar manual, I recommend Strunk & Whites: ELEMENTS OF STYLE, but if you want to delve a little deeper into the creative process, then A DASH OF STYLE should be on your resource shelf as well.”
--UK

“Written by a literary agent, The Art of Punctuation looks at punctuation as a medium for artistic expression and shows how different writers - from Herman Melville to Raymond Carver - favour different punctuation styles. It identifies the pitfalls of each and helps you identify your own punctuation style, and thereby develop as a writer. Highly recommended.”
--PublishingServices.co.uk

“The proper method of correcting semicolon misuse used to be a simple smack with the ruler. Noah Lukeman, author of A DASH OF STYLE, eschews the principles of Sister Meredith, taking on the demeanor of a loving uncle, a colleague, and an artist.  This is not a book for grammarians, but for writers of fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, poetry, and screenplays. His gentle style and guiding hand work beautifully to set the writer at ease at the very start of A DASH OF STYLE. For instance, he shows how throughout history some pretty impressive authors have abused the rules of grammar to wonderful effect, and suggests get it right all the time should not be our primary focus as writers. In this way, he encourages experimentation and makes punctuation fun and interesting.  He calls punctuation our friend and shows how though skilled use, the non-word half of writing makes those very words clearer and adds meaning. He demonstrates through interactive methods (including exercises) how punctuation adds bounce and rhythm to our prose, how it creates sound and motion, how it it clarifies our writing and brings the words to life like tiny whispers in our readers' ears.  Punctuation, he explains, creates its own little world. He puts the elements of that world under a microscope and teaches the writer to become sensitive to this habitat. In this way, the book becomes not about making better grammarians, but about creating better writers.  A DASH OF STYLE focuses on the most important uses of punctuation, those that can impact most creatively on the writers work rather than merely the technical aspects apostrophes and slashes. It concerns itself with such things as how adding or subtracting a punctuation mark will alter the intention of a scene.  As a writer with a firm grasp of the rules of punctuation, I found Lukeman's approach very useful. I don't want to become a grammarian. What I need is to learn from great writers how they used punctuation to create a style and a mood in a scene, and Lukeman delivers. He shows, for example, how periods can be used to create a stream-of-consciousness effect; how commas can indicate a passing of time; how dashes can be used to capture a certain form of dialogue; how a revelation can have dramatic effect through the use of colons. The impact on content, he says quite rightly, is the holy grail of punctuation, and he makes the learning interesting by reference to samples of written language used by such writers as Hemingway, Faulkner, Poe, Melville, Carver, Dickinson. and Stein.
By the end of reading A DASH OF STYLE, the writer will no longer cringe at the thought of punctuation, rather will embrace it as another tool in the writing arsenal.”
--BackSpace.com (reviewed by Sean Dent)

“I recommend everyone purchase [A DASH OF STYLE] and mark it up ASAP. [It] is surprisingly consumable thanks to its conversational tone, and offers a fun and breezy tour of ways creative writers can use punctuation for best effect….I’m enjoying Lukeman’s work not just for [its] frequent punctuation horoscopes, but for the mountain of tips he packs onto the pages of his book….Bonus: There are plenty of chew-on-this exercises at the end of each chapter, forcing you to consider the choices you’ve made in your work….Not only is A DASH OF STYLE insightful; it is, believe it or not, an entertaining read that’ll have you wondering over the power of punctuation–not to mention why no one’s addressed this subject before now. Thanks, Mr. Lukeman.”
--Writerunboxed.com

“[In A DASH OF STYLE, Lukeman] states ideas I’ve not seen expressed elsewhere: that stops and content are interconnected to the extent that some content is not possible with certain punctuation and vice versa; that stops with different strengths in the same piece of prose influence each other and change their effect on the reader; that sometimes marks will complement others, while at other times they will conflict (his last chapter, The Symphony of Punctuation, goes into this in some detail). Every chapter ends with exercises directed at readers who are also active writers…Every part of Mr Lukeman’s argument is illustrated with lavish quotations from good authors and he is easy to read. Anyone who wants to improve their authorial voice will find value in it.”
--Worldwidewords.org

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