You can’t fake it
I expect stories to grab me at the start (see earlier post “Do you start with a bang?“) but occasionally writers take this to mean that they can solve all their story’s problems / secure representation just by cracking the technique of writing a successful opening. The rest of your novel has to live up to the standard of your opening. Why it’s important to pay attention to opening is not so you can fake it, but so that your opening doesn’t stop the reader reading your great story.
Imagine your were selling your house. You declutter and redecorate inside. Put in new carpets and clean every inch so it’s sparkling. But you forget that the paint’s peeling off your front door, the doorstep’s covered in slippery lichen, and path is full of weeds and bits of broken plant pots. What if a prospective buyer won’t give you any longer than their first impression of what they see when they draw up outside? You’ve lost them before you’ve even had a chance to show them the house.
Equally, putting a lick of paint on the front door and mowing the front lawn won’t count for anything if it’s a mess from the minute your prospective buyer does step inside.
Next week I’m going to launch a blog competition to find the best unpublished novel opening. The prize is a full critique of your opening chapters and a meeting with me for your choice of drinks / lunch / afternoon tea to discuss your writing. So take a critical look at the opening of your work-in-progress: is it the best it really can be? And check back here shortly for details of how to enter.