Monday, January 18, 2010

142 pages is my limit.

So there's this book. It's YA, and you've probably heard of it, even if you haven't read it yet. Here are a few of the stats:

1) The cover? Gorgeous. It's why I had to learn more about the story.

2) The description? Fun, spooky history + love story + first in trilogy + mystery = trip to my local Borders to pick it up, pronto.

3) The story itself? ... And here's where things get a little ugly.

-- At about 40 pages in, I set the book down for a couple of weeks, because it wasn't that interesting yet. But no way was I giving up on such a big, fat, beautiful book that easily.

-- At 92 pages, I set it down again, because, well ... still not that interesting. Where was the story? What was the point to all the "I did this today and this the next day" Bella antics? Surely it was building up to something, but what? And when? How much longer would I have to wait? The 40-or-so other books in my TBR pile(s) were calling to me--and the call was strong--but dammit, I was seeing this one through.

-- At 122 pages, I stopped again, and decided to read some reviews. Some people loved it, but many reviewers said the same thing I was worried about: There was no story, at least not until the last 20 pages or so. Of a 400+ page book.

-- I decided to give it one more shot. And then, at 142 pages, I closed the book, marveled over its dark, spooky cover one more time, and did something that broke my heart: I threw in the towel.

This reading experience really gave me a new perspective when I opened up my own WIP. It made me think, "Am I into the meat of the story yet, or am I diddly daddly'ing around because I love my characters and their world too much to let them go?" This is something I'll address more in the editing phase, but it's also helped me to pick up my first-draft-writing pace as well.


(Most) readers are not impatient people. We love books. We love falling into world after world after world. And we will stick with you through 700+ pages if that's how long it takes to tell your story. (If you don't believe me, just ask Steph Meyer.) But, you must give us a reason first. Mundane, day-to-day activities, at least in my humblest opinion, does not a reason make ... even if you throw us a bone and introduce us to The Love Interest. It is not necessary that you plunge us headfirst into scenes with blood, guts, and drama (in fact, that can be a little overwhelming when we have no concept of who these people are yet), but you must give us something to hang on to, something to make us care. And don't wait until Book 2 of the series to bring it. We don't have Book 2 in our hands yet. And, if we can't connect with Book 1, we probably never will.

With muchest love,



Donna Gambale said...

It breaks my heart to put down a book, especially one I WANT to love so much. But the less time I have, the more I'm willing to give up.

Jonathon Arntson said...

I found you at LISA AND LAURA WRITE and your comment made me laugh out loud. Also, I love the word ├╝ber, so now I really like you.

I am doing the same thing with a book right now, I am on page 195. I know I shouldn't say the name of the book, just know that it's not making me shiver.

Tere Kirkland said...

Heh, I'm guilty of the opposite, I think, making too much happen before the reader really knows my characters yet. But I'd rather be taken along for a ride, not running around with the mc doing errands. ;) I'm about to start the Maze Runner, and I hope it lives up to the hype.

storyqueen said...

Great post.

This is why it is so important for writers to read a lot.

I learn so much about writing from books I love....and more from those I don't love.


Jonathon Arntson said...

The Maze Runner is definitely one of the best books of 2009, I know it will live up to the hype.

jessjordan said...

Good to know! Maybe I'll bump the Maze Runner further up the TBR list :)

Lisa and Laura said...

I'm so nosy, now I really want to know what book you're talking about!

I'm so much more discriminating about what I read now that I'm writing. I just don't have lots of time to read anymore, so if a book isn't doing it for me within the first 50 pages, I put it down. I kills me every time, but if I didn't do it I'd never read!

Jonathon Arntson said...

I have a fifty page threshold too, but with some books that I am questioning, I blow right past that and realize I am still not sure at like seventy-five pages or even over a hundred sometimes. With the book I'm on right now, I am finally just over two hundred pages, but still not I wasting my time, I'll decide at three hundred pages.

Little Ms J said...

I am a hard catch. It took me awhile to get into Hunger Games (but once I did I was obsessed) and I'm having the same issue with a new book I just got via Amazon. I'm on chapter three and I keep putting it down and forgetting that I'm reading it.

Erica said...

That does suck that you gave it all those pages and it let you down...

It helps to read books like that, I know I'm guilty of waiting around in the first couple chapters, need to get to it! I'm glad it helped you with your writing :o)

Katie said...

Great post Jess! And so like me :-) I do this all the time. I guess we all do but it was fun to read about.

and awesome reminder about our own work.


Kristan said...

Ditto being curious and wanting to know which book you're talking about, b/c I read TWO YA books this weekend that fit that bill. Only I'm dumb and finished them anyway. Sigh.

Fortunately I also read HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE this weekend, so pretty much nothing could ruin it for me. :)

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