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December 2, 2008

The Boredom Factor

Author Kaye Manro had a good post at her blog last week about opening lines in novels. As authors we’re told first lines are important, and we should work at making them perfect.

While I go along with this advice and try to make my first line intriguing, it made me wonder. I used to finish reading every book I started. I’ll admit there might have been times when I skimmed toward the end of the book, but I finished reading it.

These days my personal reading time is valuable. Heck, if I’m truthful, I don’t have personal reading time because I’m always analyzing how other writers do things. When I pick up a new book to read, I tend to give the author one to three chapters to grab my attention. If I’m not interested by then, the book goes and I move onto the next. I’m not that faithful reader any more. LOL – I guess I tend toward the slutty kind. If I’m not hooked I move on to the next and the next until I find one that satisfies my needs.

I’d also like to say that we’re all different. There’s one author everyone seems to like. I find her here. I find her there. I find her everywhere. On blogs, that is. Yet her books just don’t grab me. What works for one reader doesn’t necessarily work for another.

What about you? How long do you give an author to make an impression on you, the reader? Do you give them the first line? The first paragraph? The first chapter? How forgiving are you as a reader if the first line doesn’t hook you in?


  1. Leah Braemel

    Shelley, I’m like you. I used to read faithfully to the end even if the book sucked. (Came from living in the country where we could only get books from the library once a month and so we had to read what we had.) It’s only in the last two years I’ve allowed myself to *gasp* put a book down unfinished.

    I’m not so big on the ‘first line’ thing. It’s more like the first paragraph – and that’s for when I’m trying to make a decision in a bookstore or library. Once I’ve got the book at home then I’ll give it … yeah, maybe three chapters. Sometimes one is enough – but that’s rarer if it’s one I’ve personally chosen because I do do skim before I buy.

    And yes, reading is subjective. I’ve taken a lot of writing courses where the instructor will use an example of an author or book that I’ve read that makes me say to my monitor “Ugh. That book sucked, do NOT use that as an example unless it’s what NOT to do.” And yet other people love them and buy them faithfully.

    I’m also finding that authors/series that I loved I’m not loving so much any more … especially if the series goes past 6 books. It seems that the authors get weary. Or maybe they’re all just alike and I’m getting weary. Or maybe I’m just getting more demanding.

  2. Jennifer Shirk

    First lines don’t make it or break it with me. I can be very patient with an author.

    I recently gave up on a book on page 258 of a 400 page book. So i can be VERY patient. LOL!

  3. Jennifer McKenzie

    It has to be pretty bad for me to not read the whole book.
    I recently read a book I HATED because the heroine pissed me off everytime she opened her mouth. I finished it, but it was the second book by this author that left me unsatisfied. That was it. No more by that author.
    So, I’m pretty forgiving, but once an author jumps off my buy list, they usually stay there.

  4. Karen Erickson

    Yeah I’m like you. If it doesn’t hold my interest within the first three chapters or so I usually give up. And most of the time it’s hard for me to get lost in the story. I end up analyzing it. Hate that.

    Though on occasion I get totally lost and read just for the pure joy of the book. Happened to me recently with Erin McCarthy’s Flat Out Sexy. GREAT book!

  5. Alice Audrey

    I used to finish every single book if I read the first page. That lead to some painful experiences. Now I only read as long as I’m interested. I generally get past the first page, though there were a few real dogs I didn’t even get that far. Generally, If I’m going to drop a book due to the writing itself, it will be in the first five pages. Suddenly I have an urge to revise.

  6. Jory Strong

    I try to be very careful anymore about buying books, because I will finish them even if they’re a tough read. This is mainly because my buying decisions have a lot more to do with examining author craft (i.e., a story world intrigues me or a theme and I want to see how the author pulled it off) or the business of writing (i.e., trends, genre stretching) than pure pleasure reading. But saying that, I’m a tough audience. Most authors only get one chance with me. And since I read a wide range of genres, I keep a reading journal so I’ll remember the authors I’ve discovered and fallen in love with and the ones whose books I will never try again.

    First lines/first paragraphs are important, especially for impulse buys in the book store. If they don’t keep my attention, I don’t buy.

  7. Susan Helene Gottfried

    Here I am, being left of center again.

    A first line doesn’t grab me unless it’s terrible (I like to hold up the example of the school that “vomited” its students at the end of the day. I used the quotes ’cause it’s a direct quote from the book. Ugh.).

    It takes more than a first line or even a first paragraph — unless it’s dreadful — to suck me in. I need to feel like I’m part of the action, like I have a stake in what I’m reading.

    But… West of Mars, left of center… it’s all the same. I’m not the norm.

  8. Suzanne

    Hi Shelley,
    This is a good subject. I use to give the author some pages, but of late the first paragraph or two and then perhaps the page, second page. Beyond that, I find I’m skimming the pages and finally give up.
    It’s the blurb of the book that keeps me reading if the first few pages are boring. At least I know something is going to grab me. lol…

  9. Lucinda

    I try to finish every book just so that I won’t feel as if I totally wasted the money I paid for it. But some are more of a struggle than others. I guess it’s due to all those years in the newspaper business, but I tend to like tight writing. If it’s very wordy, I’ll start to skim.

  10. Shelley Munro

    Leah – a skimmer? *gasp* LOL – I’ve never been a skimmer (unless a book gets boring or predictable toward the end). I can understand skimming to make sure you get something you like but doesn’t it spoil surprises?

    Jennifer – wow, that is patient!

    Jennifer M – TSTL heroines are the worst. I hope I never write one of those but I guess it comes down to the subjective thing again. One reader’s TSTL heroine isn’t someone elses.

    Karen – I’m reading Flat Out Sexy at the moment. In fact I HAVE to finish it before I start writing today. I read until about 1.00 am this morning. I’ve decided I need Elec :grin:

    Alice – there’s a book written by an agent called the First Five Pages. It’s written by Noah someone. I remember reading it and having the strange urge to revise!

  11. Shelley Munro

    Jory – I keep a spread sheet so I know what I’ve read. It’s quite handy. Like you, I’m constantly analyzing things. Books are great learning tools for writers.

    Susan – I think that vomiting school would grab my attention, too! Who needs normal? :mrgreen:

    Suzanne – I make most of my reading choices on blurbs, and mostly I have good experiences by choosing this way. Lately, I’ve put two books straight in my discard pile after attempting to read the first chapter. One I chose on the cover and the other I chose because the first book by this author I’d absolutely loved. Obviously, I shouldn’t have veered from my chosen method!

    Lucinda – yes, these days with money being tight I think I’ll be using the library a bit more. Luckily our local library is very romance friendly.

  12. Fedora

    Like many of you, I used to read the entire book to the end, and even now, I’ll tend to at least skim to the end unless the book’s truly a wallbanger. How patient I am depends a bit on circumstances–how many other great books do I have waiting? Do I have them on hand? How much laundry’s piled up? I usually give at least a few pages, if not a couple chapters. Conversely I find it a little sad when I’m sucked in by the opening, and then the rest of the story falls flat. As much as the intro is important, there’s got to be follow through, too! :grin:

  13. Wylie Kinson

    Me too!! USED to never ever ever consider putting down a book until I reached the end. And yes, like you, I know realize life is too short to read bad books – especially when there are so many yummy delicious ones waiting :)
    And also like you, I give it 3 chaps or about 50 pages before throwing it into the donation bin.

  14. Deidre

    I try to at least stick it out for fifty pages or so. I’m a reader who just really hates to give up on a book. I’m afraid that it’s going to get good eventually, so I keep chugging along. LOL


  15. Alice Audrey

    I think my urge comes from the sure knowledge that I could do better. But then, I always can.

  16. Shelley Munro

    Fedora – yes, if the laundry is waiting then that’s a bit different. If there’s another book that I have high hopes for waiting then my patience fades!

    Wylie – exactly! Life is way too short to read bad books. :grin:

    Deidre – The reader part of me hates to give up but the author part is a lot more practical. :lol:

    Alice – It’s really hard to distance ourselves from our own work. I’ve read stuff I’ve written after a long break and been horrified. The revise part is plain good sense. :grin: