THAT reader? Which one is that?
Why, the one that writers dread.
Well, what’s so bad about that?
I’m a writer.
If you ask writers what they do after they’ve started reading a novel, most will offer a prompt reply: “I finish it,” or words to that effect. Even if they’re not enjoying the story. Actually, many non-writers would give the same answer. But I think more “real world readers” will say they stop reading if they lose interest within a few chapters.
There you have the reader that writers dread. And I’m one of them.
Don’t get me wrong. There was a time when I forced myself to finish novels, too, no matter what I was thinking in Chapter 2 or 5. I’d give the writer plenty of time—heck, the entire book—to get me to change my mind and decide the story was worth the read. That was long before I started writing. In fact, it was before I learned just how much time adult responsibilities and lives take from the waking day. When that realization set in, my reading habits changed.
Even when I started writing a novel in 2009, I didn’t change those newer reading habits—even though I don’t want future readers setting down my story before they’ve finished it. No, I didn’t change.
Instead, my willingness to “give up” on a novel means thinking about how well I keep my future readers engaged and, well, reading. Will my first sentence grab your attention? Will I hold your interest through the first scene? The first chapter? The first half? All the way to “The End”? That’s every fiction writer’s job, whether you’re first leaping into the writing pool or looking at 30 years worth of stories in the rearview mirror.
Of course, no book resonates with every reader. But we writers want our intended audiences to read our stories from beginning to end—and enjoy the experience. We can’t get lazy. We can’t phone it in. No matter our individual writing style, our story lines and characters must keep readers asking, “And then what happens”?
So what has my inner reader taught me? At the end of the day, it comes down to this.