Photo by Rennett Stowe
So up until about a year ago, I had this problem when I started reading a book. Once I peeled back the cover of one, I was compelled to finish it. No matter if I was fully enjoying the book or not. It felt like starting a book was like signing some contract. I bought this book. I've chosen to read it. And now I must read it all. I was the Chronic Finisher.
But then a lot changed in my life. I got a book deal and started writing on deadline. My then angelic two year old turned into an intense three year old. And my reading time shrunk to this minuscule sliver of time. So I found myself putting down books that didn't capture my interest. And then I wouldn't get any reading done because I felt like if I was going to read, I needed to finish whatever book I had started. But I wasn't into that book so didn't pick it up at all.
Well, finally, I came to the conclusion that I had to put the Chronic Finisher in rehab. I was missing out on good books by forcing myself to read ones I didn't love. My reading time is too short and my TBR pile too big to be doing that. So lately, I've been giving myself permission to give up on a book if it hasn't grabbed me by page 50 or so. (I know many of you are less forgiving than that, but three chapters or 50 pages feels about right for me. I give it a shot in case it's a slow starter.)
And each time I put down a book in the DNF (did not finish) pile, the writer in me wants to evaluate WHY I didn't feel compelled to finish it. What was bad enough to defeat the chronic finisher? Here's what I've discovered.
What Makes Even the Chronic Finisher Put Down a Book:
1. Didn't connect with the characters
If I can't relate to the hero or heroine at all or if I don't like them, I find it next to impossible to get into the book. I must be emotionally connected by chapter 3 at the very latest.
2. There was no chemistry or not enough build-up between the hero and heroine in a romance.
Obviously, I write sexy romance and enjoy reading it. But nothing will bore me quicker than throwing two people together when there hasn't been any tension or chemistry set up beforehand. This doesn't mean you can't have the characters get together quickly, but the author better have done a fabulous job building up that tension. (Liberating Lacey by Anne Calhoun comes to mind for a great example of how to do this right. The characters have a love scene very quickly, but the setup and chemistry are FABulous so it feels like the right time.)
3. This feels familiar...
Tired plots and clichés. Lately, this has happened most in the YA paranormal genre for me. If a book is going to have a girl meeting dangerous, mysterious new guy--there better be a helluva twist to make it different from all the other stories out there like that. (Good example of how to twist a popular trend: Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy.)
4. The BIG secret is the only sense of tension in the book.
I am fine with a secret in a plot. That can be great. (And by secret, I don't mean twist we don't see coming. That's something different. I mean we, the readers, know there is a secret.) But what I will not put up with for long is a book that drags out revealing what the BIG secret is to the reader for no apparent reason but to pull you along. This is when characters keep almost revealing what the big, bad thing is, but then someone walks into the room and interrupts them. Gah! I'm much more a fan of where the reader may know the character's secret early on, but the hero or heroine is keeping it from another character for good reason.
5. *Yawn* Boring....
This one is obvious I'm sure, but I need a book to hook and excite me. If I'm at page fifty and I don't give a crap what happens, then you've bored me. You should have me by chapter one. If the book goes on and on with description and setting up characters and not giving me any true action or conflict, I'm bored. Maybe that's a result of our fast-moving culture, but it is what it is. A book is entertainment, so entertain me. Dance, monkey, dance. :)
All right, so those are my top five reasons for putting down a book. What are some of yours? How long do you give a book to hook you? Are you a chronic finisher?