There’s this bad habit I think most readers have where we build up stacks of books that we WANT to read but then end up never actually turning that first page. This happens whenever I let my Kindle list get too long and, if I’m being completely honest, the length of that list causes me anxiety.
That’s the problem with having such easy access to reading materials, and I think that’s why I stopped using eReaders all together for a time last year. It was all too much at one time.
What did I do with my spare time this weekend? I began going through that TBR pile, and nitpicked with a fine toothed comb. Don’t ask where that, um, analogy? came from. I couldn’t even tell you! But I think you get my meaning all the same.
As I went through the books on my eReader again, I found there were several that I just couldn’t bring myself to read past the first couple of chapters. And you know what? It was, again, far too easy to remove the download and try the next book.
But it got me thinking: why do we not finish reading some books yet devour others? They say that reading is highly subjective
The Writing. The first book I tried reading this weekend was titled THE ACCIDENTAL SHERIFF. Its author I cannot presently remember, but I know the reason I could not finish it was entirely due to the writing. Was it the era in which it was written? (Western) Was it because the author’s well known and has been doing this a long time? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the flow of the first few pages did not sit well with this reader, and I stopped before the end of chapter one. I was sad, because I really liked the synopsis. Everything else, however, just wasn’t it. An author’s writing style absolutely has an affect on a book’s readability.
The Characters. Doesn’t it suck when characters literally have no chemistry? I’m not talking about the ones who were thrown together in a marriage of convenience. The lack of chemistry there makes sense. I’m talking about the main leads who, even in their arguing, still should have some level of connection. I’ve read these books before – where one of the leads really should’ve been a different character because the chemistry was much better than the intended h and H (or H and H, or h and h). If there isn’t even at least a little something drawing the main leads together within the first two chapters, then the intended audience is quickly lost. This lack of chemistry is something I’ve seen mentioned in online book reviews and IS one of my biggest fears as a writer.
The Pacing. Oof. The pacing. Another tricky element to nail within a book’s first fifty pages. I love a great action opener, but that can be easily nullified by dozens of pages of backstory, filler and descriptor scenes that inhibit the flow directly after. I don’t mind the reverse – the build up to the action. Or if the action comes and goes in waves. If, for instance, there’s a train chase at the beginning, all talk and characters getting to know one another in the middle, and very little action wrap up at the end, then what was even the point of the story? No. Not for me. The right balance is a hard thing to weave, and a practice that needs all the right pieces to work in harmony.
You Just Don’t Know Why. This. This is the last annoying one, and it’s usually called the “hook.” When you don’t know why a book didn’t grip you like you wanted, it’s usually because it’s missing that hook to keep you around. There will always be a story that makes you scratch your head and wonder what you just read. Maybe it was an ebook that was just formatted poorly and ruined your reading mood. Or maybe it was a certain cast of characters that just didn’t belong in that particular story. Have you read a thousand books like it before and now you’re just over the genre? Whatever the case may be, you just know you choose poorly – or were lied to in the synopsis – and you know it’s time to move on to the next.
These are the Big Four elements that I look for when I begin reading a new book. Does the writing flow well? Do the characters have chemistry of some kind? Is the pacing way too slow for the type of book? And what about the hook? Does it even exist? If a book doesn’t have at least a few of these Big Four elements, then it goes in the DNF pile. Do you have specific reasons you wouldn’t finish a book? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to drop a comment below and let’s discuss chat!