Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I gave up on another book. It just didn't grab me. I don't want to trash someone else's work since it is just my opinion and I know I am in the minority. This is a popular author. It is not new (published in 1994 in fact) so I'm not cramping anyone's sales anyway.
I ran into the same issue I had with another book I abandoned not too long ago. I read the synopsis on the back and the story intrigued me. A synopsis is a difficult thing to do, to boil down a book to just the essentials, but it can be a good test of a story's simplicity. If you can't sum it all up and fit it on the back of a book jacket maybe your story is a little too broad. But this one did the same thing as the last: the author and publisher both agreed on what was the crux of the story. The meat. The important bits. Then I got 50 pages in and none of that stuff had happened yet. I got a ton of backstory. Childhood lives, family history, deeply researched ethnic flavor. But no plot! I just can't hang with a story that meanders for that long without getting to what the author and publisher has agreed is the selling point of the book.
I think if your synopsis doesn't begin until 50-75 pages into your book maybe it is time to get out the red pen again and make some cuts.
I am a product of TV. Blame that. I have a busy life and only get to read on my lunch break so I need a book to grab me and get on with it. Maybe you like to linger on backstory but I sure don't. And then there's that damn blurb on the back. I just can't imagine no one else notices it. It's what you are using to sell me on your book!
Perhaps I have a double standard. I love the slow burn of the first 20 minutes of Psycho as much as anyone and I think it makes the rest of the film so effective. I guess if could read 50 pages in 20 minutes it wouldn't bug me but this was two full lunch breaks and I wasn't invested in this book at all. Maybe it all paid off in the end but I'll never know.
Oh well. It's not like I don't have a TBR pile the size of my daughter. On to the next one!


Paul D. Brazill said...

I'm with you, Eric. Let's get moving pretty quickly. Why Psycho works is that, although it takes a bit to get to Norman and the main story, you get some movement- a robbery,sex, tension- in the 'intro'.

As Altman said - 'Just get To The verb!"

Eric Beetner said...

Good point, Paul. Can't believe I'll agree with anything Altman but that's a great quote. (hate his films - so sue me)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I scrap most after a chapter or two. But lately, I'm on a roll.

Joyce said...

I completely agree. I regret having to give up on a book, but it happens. They need to grab me right away. I don't expect the whole story to unfold within the first two or three pages, but, like you said, at least within the first 50. If I'm nodding by then, I'm done. I won't openly criticize it because some people like that kind of thing, but I certainly make sure I avoid that author in the future. Fair? Maybe not, but that's how it affects me.

Keith Rawson said...

I've been on a roll lately, too, and I'm managing to shrink my toddler size TBR pile pretty fast lately.

BTW, sorry for this

go there to waste some time