I recently began to reread the Harry Potter series. Due to a hectic schedule and blah blah blah I have only managed to get about three-quarters of the way through book 1. I suppose it’s because I didn’t write much when I first read it, but now I notice all the flaws, mostly in the form of repetitive adverbs and telling rather than showing. But you know what? I don’t care. While a few years have passed, lending me better skills of both writing and observation, it’s also given me an appreciation for what authors can get away with, depending on the adoration of their fanbase.
J.K Rowling is one of those writers. She has given us a cast of lively characters and an entirely new world to immerse ourselves in. Her prose is skilful and reads much more professionally than that of Stephenie Meyer (Sorry. I like you too.) for instance, but is not without her flaws. Just like any writer. Every one of my favourite authors has moments in a story that annoy me, but they have some leeway because I already know they’re awesome.
However, this leeway is not available for debut novelists, especially within the first few pages of a novel. I am an incredibly impatient reader. If something doesn’t grab me within the first few pages, I toss the book aside. Sometimes I have persevered and gotten to the end of the book but I cannot recall a single book where the beginning sucked but the rest didn’t. I have at least three unfinished novels thrown about the house that are probably destined for eBay. While it is impossible to please everyone, you owe it to yourselves (as do I) to write the best damn beginning you can and maintain the awesome right to the last word.
Best-selling authors have more forgiving readers when it comes to slow beginnings, clumsy paragraphs or the occasional badly executed metaphor. We do not. We have to impress agents and/or editors before the book even reaches the reading public. These are people without much time on their hands who are, unfortunately, looking for a reason to say ‘no’, as much as they love finding new talent. (Reading agent blogs is helpful for such information 🙂 )
So, anyway, let’s try to finish with some happy. Imagine best-sellerdom. Imagine readers hanging onto your every word. Imagine having the freedom to keep in that scene your editor would like you to cut but is willing to leave it in because your readers will love your work anyway, unless it reads like Arnold Schwarzenegger hitting the booze. We may not be there yet, but it’s nice to imagine.
(PS: Shout-out to the spell-checker for teaching me how to spell ‘Schwarzenegger’)