When does time run out for a book?

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.

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
This entry was posted in Reading and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to When does time run out for a book?

  1. Heh. I used to think if it sees print, there’s got to be something worthwhile in there, right?

    Not anymore.

    In my curmudgeonly old age, I give a book 5 pages. If it hasn’t grabbed me by then, it’s not worth my time to press on. The writer has failed in his/her job to draw me into their story.

    I used to suffer through, but who has the time to read bad books these days when there are too many good books out there?

  2. I agree (though I will usually give a book more than 5 pages–at least 10, LOL). I used to make myself finish every book no matter what, because I felt some weird guilt thing if I didn’t. But now I realize I only have so much time, between day job and writing and, well, having a life, so I only finish books I am enjoying. My TBR pile is just too immense to do otherwise. πŸ™‚

  3. Cara King says:

    I do still try to finish every bok I start, but I certainly don’t succeed. One thing that turns me off is plain ordinary blahness – I’ve seen everything in the book before, done this way, and I feel no excitement or passion anywhere…


  4. Lois says:

    Last year I noticed I had to force myself to stop reading a book that I wasn’t getting into. I hated the idea of not finishing, but then I reminded myself that I have this really big pile of other books I could move on to. LOL

    I don’t know if I have any similar reasons behind why I give up, but sometimes it’s just boring, or the last one that I can think of that I put aside I wasn’t liking the idea, it was uncomfortable to me. One book that I had on my to be read pile got pulled and given away because a few people were talking about it on a list I”m on and mentioned it had a rape scene. (Which is one of my pet peeves, I don’t like them, nothing else to be said about it type of thing.)

    But sometimes it just might be my mood. I started reading one, put it aside but a couple months later felt like trying it again, and ended up loving it. So, it all really depends.


  5. Like you, Elena, I’m not picky, but I will now put a book down if it’s not working for me. Usually takes at least a third of the way through for me to give it up. I still feel guilty, though.

  6. Now it is rarer for me to finish a book and sometimes I just skim. I think if the characters don’t grab me, I can’t finish.
    (Lois, I love your icon!)

  7. Eva says:

    Not much different here. I used to hang in there, nowadays give up if the prose and storyline don’t appeal.

    With romances often in the middle I lose interest – particularly if the only thing separating the hero and heroine is a misunderstanding or if the plot just fizzles out.

  8. Elena Greene says:

    Yes, the infamous sagging middle! Friends at http://www.writerunboxed.blogspot.com are blogging about how to avoid it. There really has to be a big scene/crisis/turning point around the middle of each story, not just near the end.

    But I usually put books down well before a sagging middle. I must be better now at spotting up front if the characters don’t have enough challenges ahead of them.

  9. I want to fall in love with every book I read, but I also find I’m getting pickier and less tolerant as time goes on. Life is too short and precious to read mediocre books.

    If a book is clunkily written, I’ll jettison it within a few pages. If I like the writer’s voice and flow, I’ll keep going. I have found myself a few times, three-quarters of the way through something, coming back to real life and realizing I have no idea of what’s going on or who the characters are. But I’m having a good time and I’ll dive back in.


  10. Lois says:

    πŸ™‚ Thank you!! πŸ™‚ It’s actually a little larger, but you can still tell what it is fairly well. πŸ˜‰


  11. Rob says:

    I usually make it to the third or fourth picture before I decide to give up or not.

Comments are closed.