Do You Finish?

Posted on 11/15/2010


Reading a book right now that I am not completely sold on. So far, it’s been fairly generic, sort of like flipping on your TV when there’s nothing else on, and landing on a movie that’s lukewarm.  The writing is not great (too many passive sentences!) and the writer overuses the main character’s name as in.every.damn.paragraph.

So my question is, should I finish the book?

I know some people who finish every book they start, regardless. And there are others who read it for 100 pages, and then throw it into the fireplace.  I’m sure there are people who fall in the middle too.

Me? I’m a researcher and a “give someone the benefit of the doubt” person. So I thought maybe it was time to set up some rules on when or not to abandon a book:

I look for a few things.

1) Is the writing any good?

If it is, I’ll give the writer some more time. However, there’s a few caveats. For instance, I started reading the The Sportswriter and the writing was pretty good, but there was NO story. Just some dude going through life, making observations. Meh.

2) Do I give a crap about what happens to the characters?

This one is pretty self-explanatory. I simply must care what happens to your characters.

3) Is the story fun?

I can overlook a lot of shitty writing and not caring about some characters, as long as I am having a good time with the story. Now, if the writing stands out so incredibly bad, or the characters are just stupid, then I am out. But if you entertain me…I can keep going.

4) Is this a book I need to read?

As a writer, there are some books, no matter how painful, that I simply must read. I consider it part of my education. If it’s one of those books, I will fight through monumental piles of crap.  However… (I’m looking at you, James Joyce) I will not put up with self absorbed writers who write to prove just how awesome they are. (I’m still looking at you, Jimmy).

5) Overall “je ne sais quoi”.

This is something that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you just feel in when reading a story.  Maybe it’s the author, their writing style, the story, hell even the cover of the book.  You don’t really know, but for some reason, the mixture of everything just comes together to keep you reading.

And add on the part too where I am a writer and I read every book, wondering how and why it got published.

Do you have any rules for reading?

Are you one of those people who says, “There are just too many books out there to waste time on a bad book.”  Or are you one of those people who says, “When I start a book, I have to finish it.” (you might want to get some help with that OCD 🙂 )

Posted in: Reading