Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Okay, authors, you've got your awesome idea. You've written the novel. It's been tweaked until it is as good as you can possibly make it.
Your readers might not have the patience to read through the hundreds of pages where you lovingly set up the scene and introduce the characters.
I asked on Twitter how long readers gave a book before they would give it up, and the answers were mixed, but I'd say to you all - err on the side of snappy and get things going quickly!
@FunkyScarecrow: 150 pages. If the writer hasn't hooked me by that point, they're never going to.
@potterwigham: a hundred unless it is truly awful.
@J_Oliver: 50 - 100 pages, but it varies. I put Eragon down after the first page. I stopped reading Polansky's Low Town after the second.
@adribbleofink: Generally 100 pages or 1/4 the length of the book, whichever comes first. Of course, there are exceptions.
@empireofbooks: I normally play the baseball rule. 3 strikes and your out. One chapter = a strike. Or a strike can be a cringeworthy moment/scene!
@mygoditsraining: The least I've given a book was 29 pages. Usually I'll stick with a book to the bitter end, but as I've aged I've lost patience.
Luckily there are a few more patient peeps out there:
@The_Ladylark: as far as I recall there are only 2 books I never finished. Both just forgot about rather than an active decision. I'm stubborn. I even finished Twilight, and The Da Vinci Code (nearly threw that one across the room though).
@cbosteve: These days, I try to finish every book , cos I know no matter my opinion, it was a long tough journey to print
@ibc4: The last page. Just like a bad play or bad film: there is always the chance of a glimmer of Gold on the last page, scene or frame.
So, there you have it, authors! I'm teaching you to suck eggs by saying 'Entertain your readers or lose them!' In all seriousness, readers know how many books there are published all the time. None of us will ever read all the books we want to, no matter how much we kid ourselves... Hence, readers are becoming much more discerning. I know a lot more people these days who won't hesitate in dropping a book as soon as it bores them, or the pace isn't snappy enough. Novels like Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch are held up as great books partially because of the nippy pace. I do think this is a lesson that should be taken by all prospective novellists. You may like that lengthy description of what the light looks like as it falls through trees - but, by the time you get to the good bit, you readers might have gone elsewhere (where the tree is hewn down by some axe-wielding shades of grey anti-hero who is most definitely NOT on a quest *grins*)
Howabout dropping me a comment letting me know where you stop reading a book, and what turns you off?