I used to finish every book I started. I think it was partly due to a strong desire for closure, but the other thing that motivated me was artistic sympathy. Even if I really didn’t like the beginning of the book, I kept reading, thinking it might get better.
I still feel that artistic sympathy on opening a new book; I always hope I am going to enjoy it. But things have changed since I became a mother and a writer (just about simultaneously). I have accumulated an enormous TBR list, full of good bets from favorite authors and kindred spirits met at writers’ conferences and the like.
I’ve finally decided that it’s just not worth the time to finish a book I’m not enjoying, when it’s so easy to find something more to my taste. Sometimes I’ll give up after a few chapters, or even a few pages.
Now I feel like I’m striking doom into the hearts of any published or aspiring writers reading this. Because we all want readers to keep going and get to the “good parts”. (Though we try to make them all “good parts”.)
But let me clarify. I’m not really that hard a sell. I do finish and enjoy most books I start.
Things I am NOT picky about:
- Slow beginnings. If the characters are interesting, I’ll read on and I’ve never been disappointed. Good characters eventually get the plot moving.
- Very action-oriented beginnings that may be confusing or weak on characterization (too much going on, too many characters). Early chapters are a bear to write, and I’m sympathetic about that. It usually settles out as I read on.
Where I draw the line:
- Simplistic or unpleasant hero or heroine. Tortured and flawed are great; petty and small or disgustingly perfect are not.
- Seriously purple prose (a little flowery is OK).
- Confusing point of view usage. I like books that make me think, but not ones that have me rereading just to figure out who is talking.
- Extreme historical errors that indicate the author had no clue and didn’t care. Ex., a prologue I read that implied the British were fighting the Portuguese during the Peninsular War.
I do wonder how long other people give a book. Do you always finish? How far do you read before you give up? What makes you give up on a book? What will keep you going even if you’re not quite sold?
LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee
P.S. The 18th century watch in the picture is available at www.anthonygreen.com.