First Five Pages Syndrome

Hello FF Readers!

I’m currently neck deep in rewrites, so pardon the short post.

We’ve come to that time of year (which has become more and more nebulous) when TV shows make a last bid for our attention. Quite a few of those shows are in their freshman run and are competing with a huge field to get noticed. By consequence too many of these shows suffer from what I call First Five Pages Syndrome.

book book pages college education

Photo by Victor on

Writers know that this is the mythical time it takes a reader to pick up a book and decide whether or not they intend to finish it. So, writers try with near maniacal precision to craft the perfect opening—five pages worth—to entice a reader to keep reading. As a writer I find this beyond stressful. As a reader, I feel like the first five pages are condescending. I give a book considerably more than five pages before I abandon it.

TV shows do the same thing. They try to accomplish in one episode what used to take a whole season. It makes it feel hurried and overstuffed, like a badly made sausage. It’s something I keep in mind while I wade through another round of edits. Good stories are good stories and writers have to trust they’ll find the right readers.

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