Most writers will say that reading is an important part of being a good writer. You've got to read if you want to write. I agree with this statement completely and was a voracious reader long before I ever realized that you can actually get paid to write books. (As a child, I just thought the library was this magical place and I never really thought about who was responsible for writing all those books. They seemed to wonderful to be created by human hands.)
As a reader though, I sometimes run into a dilemma. To finish or not to finish? That is the question. . .
Sometimes I just run into a book that just isn't doing it for me. Maybe it is poorly written or the story is just lacking in originality. Maybe the main character is annoying or boring or so unrealistically perfect that s/he is annoyingly boring. Regardless of why, it is inevitable as an avid reader that sometimes you are going to run into a book that you just don't like. So do you finish it or move on to the next darling on your TBR list?
Personally, I don't finish most books that aren't working for me. I do sometimes feel bad about this. I worry that maybe there was an awesome pay-off in the end or that it would have finally picked up if I had just stuck it out. But the truth is, life is short and there is only so many books we can actually expect to read in a lifetime. Add into this fact that new books are coming out every day. Well, if I ever really sat down and compiled a real TBR list, it would probably be insanely long and impossible. Not to mention the fact that I could probably read a few books off of it in the the time that it would take me to compile the list. I feel worse about wasting my time on a book I don't enjoy because it takes away from time I could spend on a book I do enjoy. I am accepting of the fact that I will not get to read every great book I run across in my lifetime. This does not make me obligated to waste time on books that bad.
I don't immediately write a book off as a lost cause if it isn't working for me. I try to give every book a fair chance. If there is something original about the story or perhaps I like the author's style even if the plot isn't working for me or maybe I just really like the main character even though at times the prose seems like it was written by a high schooler. If it has some redeeming quality, I will stick it out for a few chapters at least. Some have gone on to be favorites, others end up being regrets.
What does this habit of giving up on books teach me about writing? I think it just makes me more aware that readers are under no obligation (outside of a school assignment or a book club, and even then, we all know it is optional) to finish a book. If they happen to pick up my (thus far imaginary) book, I want to make sure they stick with me. I can't make my readers sign a contract, and I wouldn't want to force anyone to read my work if they weren't legitimately interested. While I would like to imagine everyone on the planet reading (and buying!) my book, that is obviously unrealistic. So every time I find a book that just simply isn't work my reading time, I remind myself that it is my job to give my readers a reason to stay.
What about you? Do you feel obligated to finish a book once you've started? Or do you drop it and move on?
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