Okay, so it’s really me with Les’ interview, but I’m happy there’s more to share. This time we’re talking about the importance of the strong opening. If you are online at all, it’s everywhere you look; blogs, newsletters, interviews, every writing site you go to. Here’s what Les had to say.
Write On asks: If you fail to have a strong opening, can a book be saved?
Les says: This is a truly wonderful question, Dawn. BTW, you give great interview! The answer is an unqualified and resounding, “Yes!” You can muck up any part of a novel and it can be saved, i.e., published. It can be flawed in many ways and still get published and even achieve bestseller status and win major awards. Happens all the time.
Look. There is no such thing as “the perfect novel.” IMO, there is one that comes close—Camus’ The Stranger. And, I’ve looked for the flaw in that book and haven’t found it yet, but I know it exists. If it doesn’t, then we can all quit, for he’s written the perfect book and no one else will ever be able to. I suspect he wrote it with that Eastern philosophy of always including a flaw in a work of art so the artist didn’t challenge the Creator. I’ve just been unable to find it, but I know it’s there…
It isn’t just poor openings that can be overcome and the book published. You can name any book you want to and there will be flaws and usually more than one. The most we can do as writers is write the best book we’re capable of and let the chips fall where they may. We should always strive for perfection, but yet realize we’ll never be capable of it. Look at any established writer and read their first efforts. In most cases, the books get better and better. Does that mean we shouldn’t try for publication until we’re perfect? Of course not! Do your level best, send it out, and begin writing the next one and do your best to correct the errors of the previous one. We’re human beings and are flawed. Unless you think there are perfect readers out there (there aren’t) then you don’t have to be perfect yourself. You should be as good as you’re capable of. No less than that. And, if you’ve got the right attitude and mindset, your work will continue to get “gooder” and “gooder.”
This is who your audience here is, Dawn. It’s writers who are trying to get better and learn more about the craft. The people in this room are the ones who are going to succeed. Simply because they’re here. They’re trying. They are the folks who understand that, “when you’re green, you’re growing… and when you’re ripe, you’re rotten.”
Every single book I’ve had published, I look at now and groan. Not only would I change the beginning, I’d change the whole damned thing! But… I can’t. It’s out there. All I can do is make the next one better. Or… “gooder.” And, that’s what I’ll keep trying to do. It’s what all of us should strive to do. Just make the best one gooder. Worry about bad beginnings, worry about poor descriptions, worry about balky dialog, worry about characterization—worry about all of those things and more—but also don’t worry about them. Just do the best you can and keep trying to improve. That’s all any of us can do.