Friday, May 18, 2012

When Do You Bail on a Book?

My monthly book group, Tea & Mystery, met last night.  Although some of our members prefer coffee to tea, we all love reading the same mystery and discussing it.  Through the group, I've found many titles and authors that have become favorites of mine.

This month's selection wasn't one of those.

At the beginning of the meeting, over half the members admitted they hadn't finished the book.  I was one of them.  This is very unusual for me.  I always make an effort to get the group book finished in time for the meeting.  Occasionally I run out of time but I don't recall ever just deciding not to finish.

For one thing, I'm very character driven.  Once I make a connection with a character I simply have to find out what happens to him/her.  Even if the story is weak or the writing doesn't appeal to me, I stay with it until the end.  I can't walk away without knowing.

With this book, I read well past the introduction of all the major characters and story threads (there were a bunch), but there was no connection.  I tried to force myself to keep going but I reached a point where I had to admit I had no interest in finishing this book.  I really didn't care what happened to these characters or who had done what to who and why.  I also decided my time is too valuable to waste reading a book I didn't enjoy.

Wow.  What a concept.  A bit of an epiphany for me.  I didn't have to finish.

How about you?  Once you start a book, do you feel you have to finish it? 

How far do you read before you decide it's not for you? 

Do you have a point of no return - if you made it that far, you'll stay to the end?

What will make you give up on a book?

Do you think readers are quicker to give up on a book now than they were twenty years ago?

If you're a writer, do you think you're more inclined to finish a book (knowing all the work that went into writing it) or more inclined to bail (because you read with a more critical eye)?

Groaner of the Day:  Steven Spielberg was discussing his new project - an action docudrama about famous composers starring top movie stars. Sylvester Stallone, Steven Segal, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were all present.

Spielberg strongly desired the box office 'oomph' of these superstars, so he was prepared to allow them to select whatever composers they would portray, as long as they were very famous.

"Well," started Stallone, "I've always admired Mozart. I would love to play him."

"Chopin has always been my favorite, and my image would improve if people saw me playing the piano," said Willis. "I'll play him."

"I've always been partial to Strauss and his waltzes," said Segal. "I'd like to play him."

Spielberg was very pleased with these choices. "Sounds splendid." Then, looking at Schwarzenegger, he asked, "Who do you want to be, Arnold?"

Arnold says........
(wait for it)
(oh, come on, you know what's coming)
(okay, here it is)
"I'll be Bach."

(hee hee hee)


Mike Keyton said...

Like you, I'm compelled to finish a book and like you I find it immensely liberating when I don't. Being a writer makes it less likely I'll stick with a book I don't like because I resent the time 'lost'. I feel guilty sometimes actually reading good books when I'm behind in a WIP.

The compulsion to finish is a weakness. I once got a free subscription to a daily broadsheet. Every day it would plop through the letter box - and the damn things began to pile up because of my inability to skim or just not read a page or three. I stopped the free subscription. There just wasn't enough time to read everything from front to back and I was consciously dreading the daily 'plop' through the door. My eureka moment was when added the now sizeable mound to compost. Who care about words and toiling journos!

Stacy McKitrick said...

There have been a few books I would have LOVED to put down, but because I was judging a contest, I felt it only fair to finish reading. Of course, they got low marks, too!

So, yeah - I'd have no problem putting down a book I didn't like. And if the blurb (or cover - that sometimes works) doesn't get me, then I don't even pick it up. I have so many books to read, I can be picky!

Maria Zannini said...

The first book I ever stopped reading midway was Dianetics. (I'm even ashamed to have said I bought it--but I had succumbed to the hype of the day.)

It was drivel--even to me who truly came in with an open mind. Since then, I've never hesitated to put down a book if I lost interest in it. The exception are the books from friends. I will make an honest effort to finish so I can at least discuss it with them later.

Ref: finishing my books
I have a few novels (sequels) in various stages of completion which I should pitch to publishers, but I'm a little disgruntled about the rights grab, so I've been holding off.

mooderino said...

I tend to skim read when things get dull. If things don't improve and it's a long book I'll bail.

I quite liked the joke today. I may be coming down with something.

Moody Writing
The Funnily Enough

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Oh yeah, that's a groaner!
I've slogged my way through a few books, but now I don't. If I'm not into it by the third chapter, I stop reading. Life is too short to waste on bad books.

LD Masterson said...

Mike - Thank you! I'm having the same issue with the newsletters and such from various groups I belong to. I give them a quick skim then move them to a read-later folder where they sit in silent judgement of my timemanagement skills. Someday I'm going to be brave enough to hit Delete on the whole folder.

LD Masterson said...

Stacy - Judging a contest pretty much requires sticking it out. As does being a beta reader. I always put my book discussion group in this category but with this last book I just couldn't do it. (And this was a book from a successful author.)

Mary Sutton said...

I have the "I must finish a book" disease. I just can't walk away - not even from MOBY DICK (which was just awful, talk about no connection to a character). I think I gave up on the Silmarillion, but that's kind of a different animal.

Like you, I think connection to the characters are key. If readers are really in touch with a character, I think they'll be a little more forgiving of plot holes or other silliness.

LD Masterson said...

Maria - I've always found it easier to stop reading non-fiction. Probably that character-connection thing again.

Reading a friend's book or any book if the author knows you're reading it is a different animal. I feel I have to finish those.

LD Masterson said...

Mood - Yea! Someone liked the groaner. That one was so bad I just had to use it.

LD Masterson said...

Alex - I'm always amazing at how many books are out there that start so slow you have to read a hundred pages before it gets interesting. I guess they were published in a different era.

LD Masterson said...

Mary - I've never read MOBY DICK (lowers head in shame) but I have given up on a couple other long classics.

I am a bit of an animal lover. Maybe if I read MOBY DICK I could work up a connection to the whale.

Nancy Adams said...

I find as I grow older, I'm more inclined to bail on something that doesn't grab me.

Funny that Mary should mention Moby Dick, because that was the last time I forced myself to finish a book that bored me. Afterwards I vowed, "never again!"

LD Masterson said...

Nancy - I guess as we get older we become more aware of wasting time. I know I have.

Jessica R. Patch said...

Tea and mystery sounds awesome. I'd like that group since I love both.

I've only put down a handful of books. One was a British book, and sometimes English writers are a little slow and dry and hard to read. Not all of them, though!

One was a self-pubbed book. It was just horrific and I couldn't stomach it. The first 50 pages was internal monologue. Not ONE snippet of dialogue. Oy!

Mostly, I read every book I select even if I put it down a few weeks and come back to it.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I try to make it at least a fourth of the way in before giving up. Usually it's because I just don't connect with the characters.

Mary Sutton said...

No, no you couldn't. As a literature major in college, I had to read a lot of classics. Some were good, others, well, not so much. MOBY DICK (and if fact all of Melville) fell in the latter category. And you actually don't see a lot of the whale. For me, it was 600 pages of listening to Ishmael "navel gazing," 25 pages of action, and 25 pages of "who the hell cares?" Maddening.

LD Masterson said...

Diane - Sometimes if the beginning is really slow, I'll open a book to the middle somewhere and see if there's anything going on. If it catches my interest I know there's hope so I'll go back and try the beginning again.

LD Masterson said...

Mary - LOL Okay, I won't try it. Ever wonder how so many disliked books get to become classics?

LD Masterson said...

Jessica - That's funny. The book I didn't fniish was a British author. (Most of the time I enjoy British authors so I don't think it was a cultural thing.)

Your experience with the self-pubbed book is what worries me about the wave of author's going that route. It leaves the reader sifting through the terrible hunting for the good. I know this has always been the case but I fear there's going to be a lot more 'terrible' out there now.

Arlee Bird said...

I can't recall a fiction that I've started and not finished. Once I start a story I want to see how it ends. I've bailed on many non-fictions when they're boring or I just lose interest. I always intend on going back to finish them eventually, but usually I never do.

Loved the groaner--actually I laughed rather than groaned.

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

LD Masterson said...

Lee - Hah! Gotcha with the groaner. That makes my day.

Quiting in the middle of that book was pretty unusual for me. I'd like to adopt the whole "life's too short to read bad books" attitude but I fear I'll still stay with most books to the end - whether I'm truly enjoying them or not.

Angela Brown said...

I've only had three books where I was just dumbfounded because my enjoyment with the books were rock bottom.
One was a sequel to a favorite dragon story. I honestly, just could not finish it. I gave the book to a family member.
The second was a self-pubbed book that I tried to give a chance but the writer in me wanted to puke after the first page. I forced myself to finish it because it was for a book club meeting. Yeah, not a book for me at all. Thankfully, most of the self-pubbed books I've read have been excellent in the writing and storytelling so that book was a one-off mistake lol!!
The third one is one that EVERYBODY kept telling me I'd love. I got a hold of that book and, on several occasions, refrained from throwing the damned thing against the wall. I finished it just so I could give it a chance to change my mind. It didn't.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem bailing on a book. I've read too many bad ones waiting for something exciting to happen. But I usually read reader reviews before starting a book or deciding not to download it.

Sarah Allen said...

Very interesting to think about. I'm not a giver uper either. It's sad when it happens.

And I have to say, prolly my favorite groaner to date :)

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

LD Masterson said...

Angela - Wow, I don't think I've ever disliked a book quite that much. But I guess three bad ones for all the books you've read isn't bad.

LD Masterson said...

Stephen - I should really start reading more reviews. I tend to buy books on a whim or someone's suggestion.

LD Masterson said...

Sarah - Ah, another fan for this groaner. Yeah, I really liked it too.

Clarissa Draper said...

If it's a book by a mainstream author, I'll gladly drop it. The problem comes when it's a book by a blogging friend who is expecting you to give it a glowing book review. Then what do you do? Usually, I finish the book and do my best to make sure the author gets some recognition for their hard work. I'm not sure, what would you do in that case?

LD Masterson said...

Clarissa - Oh, absolutely - if it's an author I know, I have to finish it and try to speak of whatever works well in the story.

Liz Fichera said...

I have so many books that I want to read that I will bail quickly if there's no emotional connection. Usually a good book will start with a great hook and early first pages, but if the story doesn't deliver, I don't hesitate to bail.

LD Masterson said...

Liz - I've always leaned toward "hope springs eternal", waiting for the story to get better, but I might be ready for "life's too short to read bad books".

Jemi Fraser said...

I'll be Bach! Love it :)

I'm now able to put down books without finishing. (shhh - don't tell my mom! She's adamant about finishing them all!) There are too many good ones out there. I actually give up on books more quickly now - if the book doesn't catch me in the first 30 pages or so, it's gone :)

Darke Conteur said...

I've bailed on one book, a dystopian YA. I wrote it out as a short story first, then tried to expand, but the more I put into it, the less I came to like it. It's only half way done but I doubt I'll ever work on it again. It just doesn't excite me.

LD Masterson said...

Jemi - Bet your mom made you finish everything on your plate at dinner, too. *grin* Maybe that's why I have a problem not finishing a book. It's the old "finish what you start" training from my childhood.

LD Masterson said...

Darke - I've bailed on a number of writing attempts. When reading, I always hope the story is going to get better. If I'm writing it, I'm pretty sure when it's not.

Maryann Miller said...

Sorry I missed the discussion Friday. Seems I have been coming in late to a lot of good discussions. LOL

I had the same epiphany about ten years ago, LD, when I realized I did not have to finish a book unless it was one I had been given to edit or judge for a contest. That is even true for books that I receive to review. I always tell the authors that I will accept the book for possible review, with the key word being "possible." If I have picked up a book to read for enjoyment and the plot starts to fall apart, or the book is filled with cliched characters, I will stop. I can get past some minor errors if the story and people are engaging.

LD Masterson said...

Hi Maryann, Better late than never. Sounds like you've got a good handle on the whole "bailing" question.

Kimber Leszczuk. said...

If I am not hooked by third chapter I will ditch it for something else. My list of books I want to read is an excel spreadsheet over 5000 books long - no time to waste on crap I don't like.

LD Masterson said...

Kim - My Lord, how do you find any time to read after maintaining that spreadsheet?!?