…Because I’m an Idiot, That’s Why

JuNoWriMo starts in two days. Technically less than two days. My brain has been wandering everywhere lately– that is, everywhere except where I want it to go, which is writing.  I need fewer distractions in my life, especially for the next month, when I’m going to be trying for 2,000 words a day (and hopefully most of those before the kids get up in the morning, fingers crossed, yeah right).

So what did I do today?


ImageNot only did I go and look at books, I also got out more books than I could hope to finish in a normal two-week period, never mind one when I’m supposed to be writing all of the time.

I picked up a few books I’ve heard a lot about but never went OH MY GOODNESS I HAVE TO READ THAT RIGHT NOW and a few that have been recommended to me personally. Maybe it’s not fair to the books, but here’s how this is going to go: they have maybe three chapters, depending on length, to win me over. If I’m not intrigued/excited/curious/whatever (really, I’m open to a host of possibilities) by then, I’m not wasting my time on it.

Is that unreasonable? All we hear as writers is that it’s our job to hook readers in the first pages. The first paragraphs, even, if you’re talking about querying agents. Is it my responsibility as a reader to give a book more than three chapters to win me over? Even if the story isn’t in full swing by then (and I’m not saying it needs to be; I can enjoy a slow build or a quiet beginning), it needs to have promised me something that will keep me going.

It’s no different from dating, I guess. First dates don’t have to be perfect, but you’ve got to make a good impression. I don’t need to know everything about you by the third date (and please, I don’t need to have SEEN everything by then), but there’s got to be chemistry there. If there’s not, there are other people I could be spending time with who might work out better. It’s not you, it’s not me, it’s just not working.

I guess that’s an advantage of library books, at least for readers. If I spend money on a book, I’ll probably push harder to finish it. Now, if it’s not a good book this also means I’ll hate it more by the end, but I’ll at least try to finish it. If I have no money invested, I’m much more likely to leave it and go find something I DO enjoy.

So that’s the plan for these books. I’m going to give them a fair shot when I have time (and thank goodness for library renewals!), and I hope I’ll enjoy all of them.

And no, I won’t be reviewing/talking about any that I don’t finish. 🙂

How do you approach books? Do you feel like you HAVE to finish a story once you’ve started it? I used to. Do you think books deserve a chance to get good in the middle, or do you expect to be hooked/entertained right away? What pulls you in to a book? Voice? Action? A world that you want to take up permanent residence in? Characters who are interesting, either because you love them or hate them? What turns you off right away?

PS- if you’re a blogger friend and I have your book, I promise it’s still on my TBR list, but I’m waiting until I have time to really enjoy it. Yours get more than 3 chapters. 😉


About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with five cats, two dogs, and just the right amount of humans. USA Today bestselling author of the Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy), Into Elurien, and Vines and Vices. Writing dark, decadent, and deadly Urban Fantasy as Tanith Frost. www.katesparkes.com www.tanithfrost.com View all posts by Kate Sparkes

17 responses to “…Because I’m an Idiot, That’s Why

  • ioniamartin

    If I don’t like it, I don’t keep reading it. Too many good books to waste time on those that don’t hold my interest.

  • Nagzilla

    I’m with you on the three chapters thing. I can usually tell by the third chapter if the story is actually going someplace, and whether or not it’s a journey I’m interested in taking. Sometimes if it’s something I’ve been told is amazeballs or a friend just won’t stop talking about it, I’ll give it a couple extra chapters, but then I just get angry if it’s dumb, boring, or poorly written.

  • Camilla Kyndesen

    I agree with you that we don’t owe books to finish them, if we’re not hooked by the third chapter. I might not love a book until the middle – but there has to be *something* interesting to keep me going that far 🙂

    Good luck with JuNoWriMo! I’m aiming for 2,000 words a day as well – we’ll see how it works out in reality. Have you thought about using the library books as rewards for making the daily word count? 🙂

    • thelovelymessy

      I use books as Rewards all the time! I get very obsessive when I start a new book, and have zero self-control to not sit on the couch all day and read. It doesn’t work well when I want to get my word count goals accomplished unless I set boundaries for myself:)

  • mysticcooking

    I really don’t like stopping a book in the middle, so usually I’ll push on and try to finish it, even if I’m not loving it. Recently I actually did give up on a book, though – I was a little over halfway through and I just decided I’d had it, but that’s pretty rare.

    Looks like you got a good haul, there! 😉

  • Ricarda

    Matched. Ouch^^
    Also, isn’t Call the Midwife a TV show? Since when is that a book…?

    I usually give a book about 20% of its total page count before I give up. I noticed sometimes that a book takes a little longer to lure me in, but had I stopped reading three chapters in, I’d have missed out in a wonderful read.
    Then again, some books need about five pages to convince me that I hate them, and in those cases, I’m usually right when I toss them out the window… *mumbles* lousy Brothers Lionheart, didn’t like you as a child, don’t like you now, and reading you in a freak language doesn’t help, either… *wanders off, ranting*

  • Jae

    I’m the same. If they haven’t won me over by Chapter 3, I’m outta there. Life is too short and there are too many awesome books to be read. I used to cringe a little, thinking of abandoning a book like that, but ever since I’ve started to, I haven’t been sorry. Especially when I read other amazing books that make me forget all about the one I abandoned.

    That’s why we must remember it’s soo important to engage the readers right away, because many of them will walk away.

    I kind of do the same thing, too, btw. Get library books when I have other more pressing business to attend to. *shrug* At least I get to read a lot, right? Right?

  • Gloria Weber

    I torture myself. I mean I read it to the end. That is especially true if it was a gift. It took me over a year to read WICKED.

  • Raewyn Hewitt

    I always used to finish the book, but now reading time is so precious and there are so many good books available I’m much more ruthless. If the writing bothers me I don’t usually make it out of the first chapter. If the story is slow I’ll give it longer. Although saying that I did literally put down City of Bones because I couldn’t see it. (I can’t remember how far in I was when I finally got it). Now five books in and reading the prequel I’m so glad I’m listened to my friend who urged me not to give up.

  • L. Marie

    I used to feel guilty if I didn’t finish a book I didn’t care for. No longer! I might continue if a friend has read the whole book and tells me the book is worth finishing. After all, it took 100 pages for me to get into That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. I’m glad I finished it, because I wound up loving it. But I’ve read up to 150 pages of some books only to find the reading still pretty much a chore. So I stop.

    A book doesn’t have to have a stellar first line for me to read it. I think that puts too much pressure on an author. But it has to have characters I like. Not into Mary Sues or Gary Stus—characters so perfect and beloved by all that even animals follow them about. I usually stop reading books with those characters.

  • Sam

    If it’s not a love affair within the first few pages, I walk away. And that includes a lot of good and/or great books, too – when I read, I’m looking for enjoyment, and if a classic doesn’t do it, I’m not reading it. Maybe I can go back later and read all the good books I’ve skipped out on, if I ever develop this thing called ‘spare time’? I’d love to be able to devour all the reading I can lay my hands on, but that’s just not a good idea at this point. 😦 So, if I don’t love it, I don’t finish!

    … Unless I’m reviewing a self-published book. Then I feel like I have a moral obligation. 😀

  • picturemereading

    Maus is really good but have a hankerchief handy!

  • melissajanda

    Have you started reading Fallen? I picked it up a few months ago but haven’t read it yet. It was a total impulse buy. The cover sold me, it’s stunning (just goes to show how important that cover is). I looked at some reviews last night and was shocked by the number of 1 star reviews it had.

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