Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Suck That Reader In, Or Else...

I really did try.

At the library one of the books I picked up was from a debut author, a historical romance. I really wanted to like it. Even when I didn't get into the story immediately, I hung in there. I don't like to not finish a book. I wanted to give her a chance but then I suddenly remembered that it was a library book and that my life is too short and fast to spend reading books I really don't like.

So I set it to the side.

I can't help wondering though, if I would've liked the story more if I'd been sucked in from the beginning.

This is why it's important to intrigue the reader immediately! Agents and editors are readers.

I'm still working on this with my own stories. How about you? Is your first page intriguing? Does it immediately present a unique situation with high stakes? A compelling character? Feel free to share what happens in the first page of your WIP. Also, have you ever given up on a book? Did you ever force yourself to read a book you didn't like and ended up liking it?

25 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

Yeah, I am working on this one too. Hence the billion re-write of my memoir.

and the book I did not get through was Bryce Courtnay's last book 'The Story of Danny Dunn' I waded through 50 odd pages of back story and still could not figure out what the book was about. Sorry Bryce. I love you, but sheesh! Life is too short mate!

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I can't begin to tell you how many books I've not bought or started and never finished because I wasn't drawn into them and held captive!

One of the areas I work the hardest on revisions is the first sentence and paragraph of my stories.If that doesn't work then there's nothing to keep the reader wanting to finish the story no matter how well it's written!

Jody Hedlund said...

I hate when that happens! Especially when I've heard others rave about the book or give a good review! But the longer I write, the harder time I have reading. But hopefully those kinds of books will inspire us to work on our own stories even harder--at least they do me! :-)

Jessica Nelson said...

LOL Tabitha! Your last line cracked me up!

Donna, that's really smart of you and something I should work on too. So you don't have a problem putting a book aside? I always feel like I'm going to miss something and so I keep reading, hoping, hoping... lol

Jody, I remember at the conference we talked about a series I loved but you didn't. I was so surprised but it was a good reminder on how completely subjective reading is. That said, yes, this book really did make me look at my own historical in a different light, especially since this book is so similar to it.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Ah, the infamous hook. I love it--mastering it, working on it, nailing it. I want the reader worried.

I have rules for myself now when I pick up a book and don't get caught up...life's too short. There are too many books I want to read. More often than not I put the book down.

~ Wendy

Jessica Nelson said...

Wendy, it's really hard for me to do that, but I think I'm going to have to start. You're right, it is about hook. This book's hook was extremely weak.

Terri Tiffany said...

I won't finish it anymore if I don't like it and I never did that until I started writing. But I only want to read GOOD books that hook me right away!

Linda Kage said...

This post makes me realize why some editors only ask for the first page or even the first few lines of your story. If you don't suck them in immediately, you probably won't suck in a reader.

Great blog.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Yeah, I always struggle with the hook. I automatically jump into some boring action or thought, or describe something boring that doesn't draw people in. So in my current WIP, I tried to start with a quick opening line that makes the reader ask a question. Hopefully it makes them want to read on.

If a book doesn't draw me in right away, I definitely have trouble making myself go on. And I don't always finish a book if it isn't holding my attention--or I'll skim the last several chapters to see what happens, but not really engage in the story.

Lynn said...

No, I no longer finish books I don't like, unless it is a book club reading. Then I know I get to discuss what I didn't like with those that may have liked it. Makes for fun conversation, and to discover different tastes of readers in the market. Interestingly, I just finished a non-fiction book by a best-selling author whose fiction book I don't like and cannot read, but her non-fiction was quite good.

patti said...

Yes, I have given up on books. Yes, I've picked them back up and changed my mind.

Sigh. Often it depends on MY mood and nothing that the writer does or doesn't do!!!

But that doesn't negate the need for a HOOKKKKKKK!!!

Great post!
Patti

Sarah Forgrave said...

I just put a best-selling author's book down yesterday after getting a quarter of the way through. Like you, I kept telling myself to give it a chance, but it was just too predictable and lazily written. I agree with Jody...The longer I write, the more discriminating I am.

Tamika: said...

The most important thing in my writing playbook is to win my reader in the first few pages- hard work but worth every effort.

I have a closet full of books that I will probably never finish reading as a testiment.

Diane said...

I did finish a book I didn't like and it was painful. The beginning was fine, but the ending that I had dragged myself to was horrible. Very disappointing! :O)

Jessica Nelson said...

Oooh, Diane, I feel for you.

Tamika, you're back!!! :-)

Everyone else, thank you so much for sharing. I feel so guilty for doing this but now that I know more of you do it, I feel less guilty. Is that normal? *grin*

Travis Erwin said...

Used to be I never would give up on a book but nowadays I'm a hard critic. I sort of blogged about the same thing today.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I usually have between 2-3 books going at the same time. Right now, I'm suffering through one, but trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt. I'm halfway through, and nothing has happened yet.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jessica Nelson said...

Oh Susan, I hate that too! I'm sorry about your suffering. I was doing the same thing too.

Travis, thanks for stopping by! Seems like the Seekers blogged about this too, so there must be something in the air! *grin*

Jennifer Shirk said...

I must be stubborn because I kept reading and putting down a book for months then finally by chapter 8 it clicked with me and I ended up LOVING it. I was glad I stuck with it--but I did end up reading other books inbetween until I was hooked.

Stephanie Faris said...

I've found it's VERY rare that a book gets better as you go. Usually if I don't connect on pages 1-10, it ain't happening. That's not to say it's not a good book for someone else...

Deb Shucka said...

The beginning is so important for any story. A reader has to have a good reason to give up that much of her life. Thanks for this reminder of that.

I don't abandon books often, but when I do, I generally will not return to that author.

The exception that comes to mind right now is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I hated the beginning, found it slow and boring and way too full of things I cared nothing about. But once the story got to The Girl, I was hooked and couldn't put the book down.

Dara said...

My first page could probably stand to be a bit more interesting, although it's much better than it was a draft ago. :) First page, my MC is in her room alone, mourning the death of her mother, and realizing how much of an outcast she is.

I also give up on books way too often. Perhaps it's because I'm too picky. I think that's why I nearly always get books from the library first and why I hesitate ever purchasing an eReader.

Warren Baldwin said...

I love books so much that I, too, feel bad, almost guilty, when I simply can't get into a book and have to turn it in or set it down. Almost like we regard the book as a person. And, in a very real way, it is an extension of the person who penned it, isn't it?

Linda Glaz said...

Of course,I think so, but I let the crit partners have a read and then I chop, chop, chop, change, change, change.

Angie Muresan said...

I agree! I wonder how these writers get any agents, though.