Pub Rants

Losing Interest At The Halfway

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STATUS: Well, I didn’t quite finish all I set out to do today but hey, I’m outta here anyway. I may have to work some this weekend. We’ll see. Agents sometimes just need a break as well. I’ll feel more refreshed come Tuesday for it. Happier to be reading and all that jazz.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? AMERICAN GIRL by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

At night, I’ve actually been trying to read already published books. I like to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s currently hot, getting a lot of buzz, or just staying in touch with the younger folks by reading YA novels and watching YA movies (which, let me tell you, is no chore). Next to sports movies, I love, love, love movies set in High School or feature teens.

And I especially loved the aptly named High School Musical.

But I’m getting off-topic. So, I’ve been reading a lot of different authors. And here’s what I wanted to ask. For many of them, I love the first half of the book (I mean really getting into it) and then suddenly, for me, the book just loses steam. Either the character isn’t interesting enough or the story gets predictable or something just happens.

Then I can’t force myself to read on. This has happened several times in a row now so I have this stack of about three or four unfinished novels on my night stand.

So do you finish it?

I’m thinking I’m going to just move on. But there’s always the chance the author could get it back so I’m tempted to slog on.

What do you guys do?

I’m out.

Have a great Labor Day weekend. See you Tuesday.

88 Responses

  1. jellybean said:

    I used to finish everything to the bitter end, no matter how crappy. Then a couple of Christmases ago, I was given what was to be the worst book I’ve ever read. It was a gift and won awards, so I read it all. That broke me of the habit. Never, never again will I waste my time on a bad book. There are too many good ones out there waiting for my attention.

  2. Anonymous said:

    Oh goody. I have been waiting for a non-controversial topic to comment on!

    I HATE not finishing a book. It makes me feel icky inside, but I have to admit that I’m guilty of it… on occasion.

    As a writer, a lot of times I’ll finish reading a book that I’m not really into if I think that I can learn something from it. Case in point Katie MaCalister’s Sex. Lies and Vampires. I didn’t like it. Period. But then again, tons of people do. I figure there is a lesson to be learned. Somewhere.

    As a reader, if a book doesn’t catch me I’ll struggle with it and pretend to read it. Denial. Eventually I’ll pick something else up and “read two books at once”– eventually forgetting about the junk one.

    I know, I’m good at rationalizing.

    The last book that I put down without finishing was The Broker by John Grisham. Too much Italian and I had just had a baby– blood loss plus foreign language plus sleep deprivation equals No Beuno.

    Don’t tell anyone though, becasue I’m still pretending to read it.

  3. Katie. said:

    I always manage to slog onwards. I think it’s interesting to find out (as you noted) whether the author was ever able to get back on track, or if the book gets progressively worse.

    Although, on the other hand, I’m not a literary agent who has to read stacks of manuscripts all of the time. If I were, I’d probably not finish a boring book because there would be so many other books that I could read instead.

  4. December Quinn said:

    I have to really HATE a book not to finish it. I found Brick Lane stupefyingly dull, but I finished it, even though I was only skimming by about halfway through. If I’m bored I skim, but there has to be active loathing for me to put the book away and never reopen it.

  5. Sherry Thomas said:

    I finish about twenty percent of the books I start, at most. Never had the internal conflict about finishing books; never saw the point in going on with something that didn’t hold my interest.

    On the flip side, I get really worried about the last third of my own books, since I’ve relatively little experience with it as a reader! 🙂

    What I want to know is this: is finishing books that one doesn’t really want to read anymore a more predominantly feminine trait? Because on the romances boards I see all the time passionate screeds against terrible books that people read all the way through only to throw them immediately against the nearest wall.

    Do the gentlemen here stay with a book to the bitter end or toss them aside like so many candy wrappers?

  6. Kimber An said:

    No way. Chuck it. The story ought to be kicking into high gear by the half-way point. If not, the ending will likely be ho-hum. The middle’s where you ‘up the ante.’ The middle should make the reader scream!

  7. Kellie said:

    I bite the bullet and finish the book. By that time, I’ve already invested too much time and effort to not find out how the story ends.

  8. Anonymous said:

    I usually slog through.
    It has to be pretty bad for me to give up.
    Just recently I purchased Jacquelyn Mitchard’s Theory of Relativity at the same time as Alice Hoffman’s The Ice Queen. I started Relativity and was having a hard time getting into it. I made the mistake of reading the first few pages of Ice Queen. All I wanted to do was read Ice Queen. It was, for me, so much more engaging. I slogged through Relativity, making slow progress. Then I read Ice Queen in about two days.
    Guess which one I loaned to my mom?

  9. lorraine said:

    I’m with Sherry on this one. If I get halfway through a book and it tanks, I ditch it and feel no guilt. Sometimes, if I’m really intrigued by the premise or really curious as to how something plays out I’ll either skim (at lightning speed) or jump to about 50 pages from the end and see if it regains momentum. If not, it goes into the library donation pile.

    It does seem to me, though, that it’s the last half of the 2nd act (right after the midpoint) where books really tend to sag and they will often pick up again in the third act. Which makes me pay Very Close attention when writing that section of my own books!

  10. Gabriele C. said:

    The only time I finished books I din’t really want to read was during my studies (it’s what you get for majoring in Literature, lol). I’m not a very patient woman. 🙂

  11. BuffySquirrel said:

    Usually if I start a book, I finish it. That’s probably why I’m cautious about which books I buy.

    If the book loses momentum halfway through I’ll probably plug on in the hope that it’ll fish itself out of the trough eventually. Sometimes they redeem themselves at the end. One of Garth Nix’s books for example has this scene with a giant owl that I just couldn’t swallow, but I read past that and it got better again.

    It’s rare that I give up on a book, although it does happen.

  12. Kim said:

    I used to hate not finishing a book – even when I really just wanted to throw it across the room. But my time is just so limited now that, even if the book is by one of my favorite authors, if I lose interest, I put it down. I might go back to it at a later date, but there’s no guarantee I’ll ever finish it.

    It’s depressing when it’s one of my favorite authors, though. That’s when it feels like more of a letdown. It’s happened with the last two Malory novels I’ve read – I just can’t get into them and that bugged me because I love (love, love, LOVE)Johanna Lindsey’s Malory books. And to make it worse, those same two are the only ones of hers I have in hardcover. Guess that means I’ll have to try again – just so I don’t feel like I wasted my $$. Who knows? Maybe I was just having an off day and it wasn’t the book, but me 🙂

  13. Keesa said:

    It depends on how much time I have on my hands. Usually not a lot…so usually I skip the really boring/awful stuff.

    There are too many good books out there to read or even reread to waste precious reading time on junk!

  14. Dana Y. T. Lin said:

    LOVED High School Musical. Am I happy they’re turning it into a sequel, books, and t-shirts? No. But hey, that’s how the business is run.

    As for books I don’t like, I just don’t finish. In high school I read the first line of Moby Dick… I know, it’s a short line, but I still put it down and never looked back.

  15. Tami said:

    I’m on the side of feeling guilty if I don’t finish it. I’m getting better about this, but in the past few years (reading about a book every week to week and a half) I’ve probably only not finished 4-5 at the most. On the flip side, 2-3 of those have already been this year. I’m always hoping it gets better.

    I tend to also only read one book at a time for this same very reason. If I’m reading two books at a time, usually I have a greater interest in one of them. I feel like I’m neglecting the other one if I concentrate harder on the one I like more.

  16. r louis scott said:

    I think I have left all of three books unfinished in my entire life. I put some sort of obligation on myself when I start a book. Perhaps I should start doing reviews for the Historical Novel Society since I always finish and always have a very well defined opinion.

    This is not to say that I have started a book several times only to ultimately finish it once. My current chore is Steven Pressfield’s “Last of the Amazons”. I have started it three times now and not gotten through a third of it before setting it aside. Oh well, long weekend coming up.

  17. Robin L. said:

    If the story is going to linger in my head, unresolved, I push through and finish it. If the book is just *icky* and I hate it (some thrillers are this way) then I don’t finish it.

    And sometimes, the book startes out slow and then has a wham bang ending and I end up thinking it was a good book – nevermind the first 300 pages were awful.

    Also, I’m a writer so I’m reading to see what’s being published in my genre and sometimes it’s just interesting to read an entirely bad book and think “No WAY!” the whole time. 😉

  18. Anonymous said:


    Sometimes I read on (Charmed Thirds) but find the ending unsatisfying.

    Or, in a lucky situation, read on and find the ending sizzles and I’m glad.

    Sometimes I stop (Girl with Pearl Earring).

    And sometimes I find a book that keeps me reading and interested all the way to the -um, boring, letdown climax-conclusion (Cuba 15).

    Taste is personal. I realize that just because I find the story loses appeal for me, someone else liked it enough to publish it.

    And as a writer, I recognize the wasteland middle in my own writing. Good beginnings. Intense climaxes and enough denoument. Just those middles that seem to be going nowhere, even though they are.

    Now back to writing to fix the problems.

  19. S. W. Vaughn said:

    Agree with jellybean.

    I used to waste my time forcing myself to finish books I wasn’t enjoying, out of obligation. After all, someone worked hard on the story, right? Just as hard as I work on my novels. And I should give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Then I read a long-awaited series continuance (years between books three and four, mind you). I practically camped out at the bookstore to buy this book. I almost started reading it in the car on the way home. I was SO EXCITED.

    I read the book. In the beginning, the characters, the ones I’d come to care about, sat down around a campfire. One of them started telling a story.

    The story he told WAS the book. At the end, Where Last We Left Our Heroes, they picked up, moved a few feet down the road, and ran smack into a big cliffhanger. The End.

    I threw the book across the room. I didn’t buy the rest of the series. And I swore I would never read another book I didn’t like again, because it was a waste of my time and I could have been reading Odd Thomas (okay, it wasn’t published yet back then, but still…)

    My ten cents (adjusted for inflation). 🙂

  20. 2readornot said:

    I’m busy enough (and you probably are too) that I just put it aside. I don’t want to spend time with a book that doesn’t do it for me…sigh. No wonder it’s so hard to get published!

  21. Pepper Smith said:

    It’s really hard for me to abandon a book if I’ve shelled out cash for it. There have been times when I have, but they’re rare.

    One thing a lot of writers have a problem with is the middles of their books. The pacing tends to drag around then. It’s hard to maintain it sometimes, hard for the writer to maintain their own excitement in their story. But it does tend to pick up again as the book goes on, so I try to give the author the benefit of the doubt and read on.

  22. Lynne Simpson said:

    I’ve always admired people who stick with a book even though they’re having trouble staying interested. My husband is this way, and I think it requires more focus and discipline than I have.

    If I can’t stay interested in a book, I flip to the end to see how things turn out. Then, if that’s the least bit intriguing, I may backtrack and skim some of the later chapters. Sometimes, if the ending of the book is solid enough, I’ll pick up reading again.

    I really hate it when I have to stop reading a book, but my schedule is so full that I can’t afford to spend time reading things I’m not learning from and/or enjoying.

  23. Anonymous said:

    I have to read to the end! If a blurb on the back of the book catches my eye, than by all means I want to get to the good parts of the book. Although I’ve been known to skim ahead to see that, yes, indeed the action does pick back up.
    Like in the first Harry Potter book, I thought it started out rather boring–but once I got into it I rather enjoyed it.

  24. Jillian said:

    I almost always finish books, just because I can’t stand not to (skimming if necessary, should it be JUST that bad).

    Recently, though, I gave up on Dickens’ Little Dorrit. I’m not one to give up on classic lit, but….UGH! Every time I started reading this one — every time — I literally fell asleep sitting up.

    There really is too much to read for wasting time on bad or losing-too-much-steam books, whether classic or modern.

  25. Anonymous said:

    Kristen, we’ve been programmed to believe that agents never, NEVER, get beyond the first 50-100 pages. We must capture the attention/passion of the agent in those first pages, that that’s where we spend all over our creative energy.

  26. Kimber An said:

    Huh, we have, Anon 7:24? I must have slept through that one. What if the agent or editer gets that far, likes it and asks for more, and we’ve got nothing or not much to give? I think it would sting more to have a story rejected after submitting a full than a partial. My advice: Kick butkis from start to finish! And don’t submit until you know you can!

  27. Termagant 2 said:

    I’m one of the impatient minority, I guess. I will hurl a book with great force if it displeases me at any point–30 pages, 50, halfway through. Whatever. I even once wallbanged a book after I finished it–the ending was that disappointing.

    One common thread in these comments is that the middle is a problem. I wonder–could it be that some of us are trying to stretch a shorter tale into a longer frame? Maybe some of these stories “sag” in the middle because they should have been shorter to begin with? Maybe some of us (present company excepted, natch) are trying to make word count, and we should’ve knocked off on this saggy beast long before…

    Just a thought.

    Sign me, T2 the Wallbanger

  28. Kimber An said:

    Oh, yes, Termagent, that’s been my experience when critting other people’s stories. This is when it is extremely valuable to exchange critiques with an established group of critters. Some writers simply are better suited to short stories than novels. In a good crit group, we help each other figure that out. A lot less feelings are hurt because we know we’re there to help each other. I recommend to everyone I can!

  29. Julie said:

    Depends on whether it’s a horribly bad story, or horribly bad writing. I rarely leave a book unfinished, although I, too, have some of those “I’m reading 2…or 3…or 5 books at once” things going on! HAHA!

    I finished a book yesterday by an author I used to read obsessively, but haven’t read in a long time. This was an early career book republished in hardcover. The story line was interesting–quite unique, really–but the writing was hilariously horrible.

    I read to the bitter end because of the story AND so I could read portions out loud to my husband and howl. 🙂 There were adverbs and metaphors (some bizarrely inappropriate metaphors) in nearly every sentence, and major oopses in timing. (Like the guy who had already left the room getting handed a guitar. Whoa, I said, what just happened?)

    It was so bad I enjoyed it. 🙂

  30. whitemouse said:

    I used to force myself to finish books.

    Since I started being serious about my own writing, and began to learn more about what makes for a good read, I’ve become much less willing to tough it out.

    I have found, however, that yucky technique does not offend me as much as a story that begins to sag.

    Recently, I finished Silver’s Bane by Anne Kelleher, even though I found the writing very poor (particularly at the beginning) and there were plot holes and hand-waving all over the place. The story itself was pretty exciting.

    A month or two prior to that, I tossed Moonrise by Mitchell Smith unfinished, even though the writing was excellent. The story started out wonderfully and then began to drag; the main characters just kept stumping around in the bush endlessly.

  31. Scott Marlowe said:

    When I was younger, I’d slog through it. But I also read a lot more in general back then–more free time. Now, my time is too valuable to waste on something that isn’t doing it for me. As an aspiring writer and at this point in my life, I especially want to read books that are well-written and hold my attention because it helps my own writing.

  32. srchamberlain said:

    Depends on the kind of book. If the plot isn’t going anywhere, I assume that I won’t have any unresolved “I wonder what happened”s dwelling in the back of my mind. A lot of the so-called “literary” prize winners fall into this category. I’ve started three Zadie Smith novels now and never managed to get past page 100. (I was delighted to hear from that Guardian survey a while back that I’m not the only one who reacts this way to Zadie Smith, and that most people just buy her for the intellectual cachet.)

    On the other hand, a book with a good or at least suspenseful plot will keep me reading, even if the writing is very subpar. I was completely grossed out by Carol Goodman’s implausible and horribly written “The Lake of Dead Languages”, but I kept turning those pages because I knew I wasn’t going to feel satisfied until I knew whodunnit. And I found out, and felt like I’d just eaten a whole bag of Ruffles potato chips.

  33. Kanani said:

    Great thread!

    I had a teacher once who called it “Mid Plot Droop.” I remember thinking, “Oh, that will NEVER happen to me!”

    And it did.
    The hints?
    Protagonist was suddenly spending more time describing things than doing things.

    Transportation problems: Writer had protagonist was stuck on a train for (I kid you not) about a month. I called it my inevitable ‘train block.’ Let’s just say when you’re describing the seats on the train, you’re stuck.

    How I got out of it….
    Well, it wasn’t easy. The problem was that I’d quit “seeing” the story. I’d lost the reason/thing/desire that the protagonist had to find/overcome/realize. So I went back through and tossed out entire scenes that weren’t leading anywhere… pretty prose but out they went!

    I know that if I get stuck on the train again, that’s the thing that leads to never finishing a book.

    Right now I’m reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never let me go,” and I’m finding it pretty much one big train ride. I give myself permission not to finish books all the time. This might be one of them.

  34. Edie said:

    I don’t finish. I’ll skip to the ending, then put it aside. I have too many other books to read–and write–to waste my time on a book that’s not holding my attention. The only exceptions are books by favorite authors.

  35. kis said:

    Depends, really. If I got it from a friend, the library or a second hand store, I’ll put it down. If I paid the cover price, it’s a lot harder to do that. When you support a family of five+two on not much more than $30 000/year Canadian, wasting $10 or $20 on a book you don’t finish really hurts.

  36. Anonymous said:

    I have just started giving myself persmission to drop the book when it gets boring.

    I tried to read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, but the middle got boring, so I skipped ahead and read the end.

    Sad, but true. Of course these are books I have checked out from the library, and I didn’t spend money for them.

    Sometimes a book is just too long, too detailed, too many characters, etc.

  37. Shanna Swendson said:

    Usually, my drop-off point is around a quarter to a third of the way through a book. If it isn’t totally grabbing me by that point, I may not intentionally put the book aside, but if something else comes along that I’d rather read, I’ll get sidetracked and never get around to finishing the other book. About once a year, I have to purge the nightstand of the pile of books with bookmarks placed at about page 75. They then go back on the to-be-read pile.

    That’s mostly for books I own, and most of those are books I was given rather than books I bought for myself. I have recently put down some library books I decided I just didn’t like instead of forcing myself to read to the bitter end.

    If I make it to the halfway point, I’ll generally finish the book. There may be some skipping around, such as to follow the story line of the one character I actually care about, but I will get to the end. My mom’s technique for this is to skip to the last chapter and read it. If that satisfies her curiosity, then she puts the book down with no guilt. If the ending intrigues her enough to make her want to know how the story got there, she goes back and reads the rest of the book.

  38. Bella Stander said:

    The only time I make myself finish a book I can’t stand is when I’m reading it for review. Otherwise, there are too many books on my shelves waiting to be read for me to waste time on ones I don’t like. Those are all review copies or, more rarely, gifts. When I shell out my own money for a book I first make pretty damn sure I’m going to love it–or it’s so cheap I don’t care. I recently bought a bargain Dover edition of Proust’s SWANN’S WAY & found it impenetrable, so I coughed up the price of the most recent edition. It’s still slow going, but way more legible & comprehensible. And perhaps I’m mistaken, but it appears to be less peppered with semi-colons.

  39. Sam said:

    That’s an easy one – if I don’t like it I skip to the end and read the last page. If the last page catches my interest again, I start reading again to give the author another chance to catch my attention. If within another chapter I’m still bored, the book goes in the giveaway box – maybe someone else will like it!

  40. Yahzi said:

    As a dude and an avid reader, I can count the number of books I did not finish on one hand.

    The first one was “The PickWick Papers” by that penny-a-word hack, Charles Dickens.

    I read about 100 pages an hour, so its not such an investment for me to finish a book. Plus, once I start hating a book, I’m just reading it for more things to hate about it. If I am going to hate a book, I want to know all the reasons to hate it.

    And there can be an upside to a bad book: I have a whole section on my bookshelf of “inspirational” works. That is, works so unbelievably bad that they inspires me to believe I can get published, too.


  41. Anonymous said:

    I’m always reading 3 or 4 books at once because I just don’t know when to quit. I should probably not slog through them but I usually do. The ones I don’t finish – I never throw them across the room; they simply die a slow lingering death. They get so little attention over the weeks and months that I eventually forget the plot and finishing them becomes impossible. Like leaving unwanted food in the fridge until it goes bad and you can at last justify chucking it out.

    Currently I’m trying to finish a quasi-sci-fi J.D.Robb mystery (I’m yet to emerge from the slow middle) and a terrible awful dreadful horrible Luna novel that I’m only reading because I would like to write for Luna. I have a non-fic book on the go, too.

  42. Bernita said:

    I have also been programed to finish what I begin. Fortunately, I’m a fast reader – and I have been known to skim because I must know how a story ends.

  43. Patrick McNamara said:

    I tend to be a fussy reader. A book really has to hold my interest for me to keep reading it. I tend to be a slow reader, so if the prose isn’t strong my focus drifts and I start thinking about other ways the story could go rather than what is written.

    TV shows today will loose viewers if they don’t try to hold the viewers attention, and I think readers are getting to be the same way.

  44. Zoe said:

    I don’t like leaving a book unfinished, but sometimes I do it anyway. When I start avoiding reading because I don’t want to go back to that book, that’s when I decide it’s time to quit slogging through it and move on.

  45. eleora said:

    I drop the book. Too many other things to read. I seem to have high standards, because there are a lot of best-selling fantasy novels that I have picked up and never even wanted to keep reading after a few pages.

  46. Elektra said:

    Definitely don’t finish the book, in the same way I don’t finish a meal I ordered but don’t like: I paid good money for this, and I didn’t pay it to be miserable.

  47. Mark said:

    Stephen King’s Rose Madder was one I should have ditched. He starts out with Rose in the real world, and makes it painfully obvious to the reader she’s going through hell. Then, right when I was convinced this was a great piece of straight fiction (meaning, not supernatural), he sends her through a painting to another world or mazes and minotaurs.

    I was thoroughly let down by that one.

    I ditched the fourth book from the Dark Tower series. Too awful. I think I realized that, for me anyway, King’s supernatural stuff is not worth my time.

  48. soynadia said:

    I was thinking last night about the reasons why books so often fall apart in the middle. I came up with a couple of ideas:

    By the time a good writer gets to the middle of a novel, even with a detailed outline, the characters have matured and are speaking their minds. You know what I mean, don’t you? The feeling is both exhilerating and out-of-control … like the book is writing itself.

    But it isn’t, and that’s the problem. No matter how much it feels like X-character is alive and making decisions, he’s not. And what sounds so effortlessly like X-character is probably drivel just because it is so “effortless”.

    But it sounds so natural, and that’s one reason why books fail midway through. The writer abdicates control of the plot to the creatures of her imagination, and all those creatures want to do is hang out, smoke ciggies, paint their toenails, watch a lovey flic, (or whatever) which all seems so completely natural, but is boring boring boring to the reader.

    It’s a little like teaching adolescents. It’s okay to let them express their opinions, but treat them like friends and you’re doomed. You’ll never ever regain their respect.

    What do you think?

    And here’s another — lots of writers do manage to organize the chaos that is the middle of the book, but fall down at the end. Why do so many books (and movies) dissapoint at the end?

  49. Kimber An said:

    I’m sure it’s only a style thing. First, I find that as soon as my characters take over, that’s when the story gets hot and it kicks to the end. I have lots of critters reading for me who confirm this. Secondly, I love hanging out with teens and have no problem keeping their respect. I suppose this is why it makes sense for me to write Young Adult.

  50. joanr16 said:

    Obviously this is all very much personal choice. However, I can’t let the reference to Charles Dickens as a “penny-a-word hack” (by someone who referred to himself as “a dude”) stand unchallenged.

    The one book that apparently formed this, um, dude’s opinion was The Pickwick Papers, Dickens’s first. Critics generally agree it was his weakest. In the past year, at the ripe old age of 48, I finally “discovered” Dickens. I was required to read Great Expectations in junior high, and while it didn’t fill me with loathing, it didn’t stick, either. In six months I’ve made it through Bleak House and Oliver Twist, am nearly done with Little Dorrit (also not considered one of his best, but I’ve loved much of it), and next up will be A Tale of Two Cities.

    I have learned so much about character, voice and setting by reading Dickens at long last. It’s purely my own opinion that he is the greatest novelist of the English language. However, it makes no sense to dismiss a writer’s entire body of work after having read and disliked only his or her first novel.

  51. Anonymous said:

    i generally stop reading a book if lose interest in it, no matter when, even if I’m 3/4 way through. I’ve actually done this recently with a certain ya novel that everyone loved. I also liked it… but it just went on and on and on.
    Books that I force myself to read are ones that for some reason or another I feel I must have to, like those that have already been made into movies or back when I was in high school. ha…

  52. Sandi said:

    I have a stack of unfinished books, too. I think a few favorite authors, or books, have spoiled me to anything new. I compare everything to The Bride Finder and Outlander. When I used to run a bookstore, I handsold Outlander to every romance reader I could. One lady actually came back in to vent–she said she’d never be able to read another writer again! I know how she feels. Sigh. Sheesh…no luck finding anything that wonderful anytime soon, I guess, but a girl can hope!

  53. will entrekin said:

    Life’s too short to finish uninteresting books.

    But I wonder: is it better to read 7 novels that are only moderately interesting all the way through, or 14 halves of novels that are killer?

  54. kis said:

    Hey, on a related note, have you as an agent ever requested a full for something you knew you didn’t want to rep, just because you had to see how it ended? You know, a book that you enjoyed, that hooked you as a reader, but that you maybe didn’t think you could sell, or that wasn’t polished enough. It strikes me that that could be a bummer part of the job of agent or editor–reading the first bits of so many things, and not finishing most.

  55. Liane said:

    What do I do? Use them for sleeping pills. 🙂 Seriously, I don’t know what it was about Snow Falling on Cedars, but I never got past chapter 3. I really tried to like that book. Then I heard the author speak at the Southwest Writer’s Workshop. Dude, talk about your snore-fest!

  56. Anonymous said:

    I have noticed that the frequency of this experience is increasing for me (books that turn blah mid-way through, or, GASP, sometimes much earlier), so either the quality of recently published material is getting worse, or I am getting pickier. I am compulsive about finishing what a start. I ALWAYS finish a book if I start it, but, as a result of so many recent “death march” reading experiences, I find myself much choosier about what I begin. The last two trips to the bookstore I came home empty handed (and I had a coupon and was in the mood to buy). I would rather re-read an old favorite than waste time and energy at this point.

  57. Lexie Ward said:

    I give a book 50-100 pages. If I’m still bored by that time, I start skimming for the good parts. If I’m still not into it, I read the end and am done with it.
    Nothing makes me madder than spending good money on a book that has been highly touted as a great work and then it turns out to be a total flop. Especially if it started out with a bang (I usually read the first ten pages really quickly before I actually belly up to the bar and purchase)and then doesn’t deliver the goods in later pages.

  58. Manic Mom said:

    I don’t finish ’em.

    Now, onto the subject of High School Musical (say it like Mrs. Bumpus, or whatever the hell the theatre teacher is named.

    I have blogged about HSM and comparing it to Grease. It’s a feel-good movie like Footloose, Dirty Dancing, all those fun ones from ‘back in the day!’

    I am convinced Disney is kicking their little Mickey Mouse ears for not putting this sucker onto the big screen!

    Like you have the free time, but here are the links to some of my HSM blog posts. We are a geeky family, singing at the top of our lungs when it’s on, all five of us, hubby included.

    I even downloaded the CD to my iPod.

  59. 2readornot said:

    Wow, all you intrepid readers — I’ll be thankful for you *when* I’m published 🙂

    I should have been an editor — I can usually tell if I’ll like a book within ten pages, tops. And if I don’t, I definitely don’t waste my time (unless a friend has asked me to read it for some reason…sigh). Then I skim.

  60. Kristin said:

    Depends on how bad the book is. If it is just a little slow, or a little dull, I will slog on, because the beginning grabbed me, and I usually hold hope that the end will.

    If the book is just going in the dumbest direction, and I can almost predict the ending, and that ending will make me toss the book across the room in frustration, then, no, I won’t bother.

    I have one of those on my nightstand now. It was a gift…a nice hardback…and I have no idea what to do with it. This one was only really interesting for about 6 or 7 chapters, but I hoped it would get better. It just got worse and worse and more and more stupid. ACK!

  61. Mallika said:

    I used to finish every single book I started, no matter how utterly crappy. Then a few years ago I had an epiphany: instead of wasting my limited time with bad books that made me want to hurl them off a cliff, I could use that time to find other books (BETTER books!) to read instead.

    Life is too short to spend it reading crap.

  62. Annie said:

    Once I start skimming, I know the book isn’t doing it for me. I used to keep reading, but recreational reading should be engaging and fun … right? When it isn’t, what’s the point?

    Sometimes when the middle-of-the-book doldrums set in, I skip to the end, but usually, I just quit. Too many really good books to waste my time on the not-so-good ones.

  63. Anonymous said:

    Interesting question, because I just got to the good part in a book that was starting to lose its steam.

    This book, Lord of Snow and Shadows by Sarah Ash, had what I thought was a great beginning, but then things started to fizzle. It wasn’t bad, just a little slow. Then a third of the way through, it started getting good–good enough that I stayed up later than I should have reading it.

    The only time I’ve gotten to the middle and dropped a book was that something happened that was so offensive to me that I got too angry to finish. I’ve given up on tons of books by page ten, though. If I hate the style or don’t care about the characters, I know I’m not going to make it through the book, so I’ll stop. But to use the book I’m reading now as an example of my usual habbits, I moved forward through the rough spot because I wanted to find out what happened to the main character. I was frustrated because he was just sitting there in his father’s kastel moping around, but I cared enough to continue.

    I wish I would have had a choice about whether or not to finish a book in high school. Ethan Frome… Can’t we burn all copies and wipe it from existence?

  64. BuffySquirrel said:

    I just remembered that I stopped reading The World According To Garp about halfway through because I decided the protagonist was an utter shit I didn’t want to read about. And because the child rapist got off scot free and nobody in the freaking book cared.

    And if Dickens is a hack, then I say, let’s have more books by hacks!

  65. katiesandwich said:

    Okay, whoever posted that comment referring us to, thank you, thank you, thank you! This is so what I’ve been looking for!

    And I would comment on the topic of this entry, except I already did that anonymously before I knew what this “other” button was all about. Because I’m a moron.

  66. Kimber An said:

    You’re welcome, Katie. See you around CC. They’re about to switch to a better server, which will be nice. It just keeps growing and growing over there! Hmm, I wonder why? 😉

  67. Jana Oliver said:

    When you stand before St. Peter, he will not consult his records, shake his head and say, “You read that one, did you? Oh, dear…” You will not be credited for the ‘wasted’ time. It’s gone… forever.

    To that end, I will not finish a book that does not work for me. There are too many awesome books to devour and I have little time to do so. Grab me around the throat in the first page, hold my attention throughout the story and then make me hurry out to buy the next in the series (or curse you because it’s gonna be “X” months before that next one comes out.)

    I know… I want the moon and the stars. And a book that takes me on a magic carpet ride.

  68. a can of soup said:

    Heck, I cheat. If it looks good, I’ll read the first couple pages, and if it tanks midway, I flip to the last three pages and read the end.

    I did this with the last Harry Potter book and drove my brother crazy with “I know who di-ies”. Good times, good times…

    Either way, middle-book-itis is easy to come upon, even with terrific authors. But then, I have the attention span of a one-year-old chocolate labrador, so don’t take it from me.


  69. Karen Duvall said:

    I’m guilty. I have at least a dozen books on my shelf that I couldn’t finish. It doesn’t mean they’re bad books, just bad books for me.

    For the life of me I couldn’t get into the DaVinci Code. Loved the concept and all the hype that went with it, but the writing was so sophomoric that I simply couldn’t keep turning the pages. I got to chapter 6, I think. My time is more valuable than that. Maybe some day I’ll watch the movie. It’s gotta be better than the book. ZZZZZZzzzzzz…

  70. Diana Peterfreund said:

    If i read past page 20 or so, I read the whole thing UNLESS it’s so positively TERRIBLE that I’m throwing it against the wall every three or four pages. But there are a lot of books that don’t make it past page 20.

  71. Wesley Smith said:

    I think I actually put down more books than I actually finish. There are just too many stories out there that I want to read for me to waste my time with something that isn’t engaging me.

    Having said that, I’ve noticed that when I start a book, I need at least 1-2 hours of uninterrupted reading time at the beginning, or else my interest drops way WAY down, and I’m much more likely to drop a book.

  72. Ryan Field said:

    Communications, semantics, semiotics, they all play a part on this. Sometimes, depending on your mood or circumstances, a book seems awful. But if you put it down for a few months, or longer, you’ll find when you pick it up again it wasn’t that bad.

  73. Denlm said:

    I read them all to the end, then throw out the books that leave me cold. Great books are saved and re-read down the line. There’s only one novel I tossed without finishing it: “Good as Gold”. It was by the author of “Goodbye, Columbus” so it should have been delicious, but the fizz went out of it halfway through. One novel unfinished in over 50 years of reading — must be some kind of recor, eh?

  74. Anil P said:

    Not surprising.

    Beginnings start honestly.

    Then the author tries to tie things up nicely, too nicely it would seem.

    Last week I left The Kite Runner unread a short way off the end. It lost steam quickly.

  75. Mrs. Brain Bomb said:

    That has happened to me a couple of times. Sometimes with best-sellers like The Last Templar. And I love that Templar history stuff and free-masons, etc. I eat that stuff up on the History channel. I just couldn’t get past some of the writing. Will I finish it? Yes, eventually because I want to read the whole thing before fully forming an opinion. The same thing happened to me with an Isabel Allende book (Daughters of Fortune), and I admire her writing tremendously. That book is pretty intricate; I think I just need to be in the right head for that one.

  76. Anonymous said:

    Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it’s the book and I suspect sometimes it’s me. Case in point, George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.

    I just couldn’t sink into it after three days of trying. Put it away but found myself with a long plane ride and nothing to read so I brought it along. After 70 pages I was hooked, completely immersed and loving it. I read it all in a 2 day 2 night marathon.

    Now I’m a pathetic addict posting on boards trying to get a fix between books. The man is a sadist and writes too slow but it’s one of the best series I’ve read in years. I don’t know why it didn’t grab me the first time I tried it, but I’m glad I tried it again.

  77. Carol in the Seaway Valley said:

    I try very hard not to give up when the story I’m reading starts to go astray; then I give it to the “free” library, imagining that someone else might like it.
    It’s happened that a story didn’t grab me right away, then something wonderful happened. When I see this I guess that some writers can’t properly formulate the beginning of their stories because they’ve already written the ending. Something I would never even contemplate doing. Not knowing the outcome of the story I’m working on is my best and only reason for writing it___creating and living other lives at once.

  78. ~Nancy said:

    I choose books carefully, but when someone gives me a book, I feel I have to read it.

    It’s like the sword of Damacles, and I really don’t like it. It doesn’t happen very often, thank goodness.

    The only book in recent memory that I refused to finish was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Yes, I won all sorts of awards…and I’m still scratching my head wondering why.

    Oh well, to each his own.

    I read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and managed to finish it…but it was tough to slog through. I don’t know. Maybe you have to be twenty-something to get into it? (I’m well past that, BTW ;-).)

    My first encounter, that I can remember, in having trouble finishing a book was a novel by Dick Francis. The name of it escapes me, but when the ending came, I was dumbfounded and aghast. I wanted to hurl the book against the nearest wall (I thought about hurling something else, but I resisted).

    It was that bad, IMHO. I can’t remember exactly what ticked me off about it (it’s been almost 20 years), but I haven’t picked up a Dick Francis mystery since then.

    My bad. But that’s the way it goes.

    And…any future books that I can’t stand halfway through are either going to be trashed, sent to the public library, or handed off to a friend or relative.


  79. writtenwyrdd said:

    I read a lot, and sometimes that makes it harder to continue reading something that gets dull.
    Sometimes (more often than not) it’s just me and my mood. So I give these books a second chance.

    I usually set it aside until some later time. If I can’t bear to read it again, it goes away. But generally I’ll get back to it. I do start it over though.

  80. Joelle said:

    I just found your blog, so I’m a bit late chiming in, but this I had to answer, even if no one sees it.

    I give nearly every book 50 generous pages. Every once in a while, I can’t go on after page 5 or 6, but otherwise, I try for 50. I then set them down, and if I’m still thinking about them a couple of days later (not usually), I finish it. There is only one book I didn’t pick up that I kind of wish I knew what happened, but I set it down because it was too violent, which is an entirely different reason.