Sunday, April 8, 2012

Finish That Book!

I was in charge of my school message board's weekly craft discussion and posted something nearly identical to this:

Over the last six months or so I've been coming across more and more instances of people saying that they aren't finishing books. The reasons are varied: hollow story, predictable outcomes, annoying characters, you name it.

The same goes for skimming. During a faculty lecture in January we were asked to see a show of hands of readers that skim. Half the room put their arms up. Others talked at dinner about how they were afraid to put theirs up, only to be caught off guard by how many did. It seems the majority of the community was guilty.

The point of the discussion is coming soon.

Most of us would agree that it is often easier to pinpoint what doesn't work in a given piece of writing. When something is strong, we sometimes just "know," but when it's "weak" we can chop it up and dissect it and discuss it until we're blue in the face. And that's mostly a good thing. My lectures, workshops, and advisor interactions are making me a more informed reader and giving me a better vocabulary to articulate my ideas.

But, all of that leaves me wondering two things:

1) Why do so many readers stop before the end? How do we know that these "weak" aspects of a book are actually going to turn out that way if we never even reach that part of the story. Shouldn't we be reading entire novels to take in as many pieces of the puzzle as we can in order to learn more? Sure, we might like some books less than others, but that doesn't mean that we can't learn something from every whole product. What good can possibly come from putting a book down?

Which leads to...

2) How can we turn this into a positive? How can we take these things that infuriate us so much about some books and learn from them in a proactive and productive way? Rather than stopping or throwing the book across the room, how can we flip the switch on these stories and figure out how to avoid the same mistakes?

I try to read every book until the end, and I try to take something from every book. I'll admit it's really hard sometimes, but I think it's important that we try.

How can we help each other with this? How can we use every book we read to our advantage. How can we learn from the negatives to turn them into positives?


  1. While reading "those" novels, I can't but wonder how "they" got published when it's so darn hard to get anything published. So, I talk it out with a friend. What makes this story stand out?

  2. If I put books down before a 100 pages I would never have read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Steig LarsSon) The Fellowship of the Ring (J. R. R. TolkIen), The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne) or Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (J.K. Rowling). Think before you pitch it!