What is your STOPPING point?

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In the final throes of editing and proofreading before hitting that “Publish” button, I am once again re-visiting my opening paragraphs. I have two that I like, one that I’m leaning towards, and I’m 90% certain I’m leaving it alone. However, in the past few months, I’ve been hyper aware of how other authors choose to start their novels. It’s fascinating.

I recently began reading a book that had been highly anticipated, and then highly recommended by several blogs that I follow. I’ve found some great books this way in the past, and have rarely been disappointed when a book has this much positive buzz. So I bought it, started it, and at the end of chapter one I thought.. eh. Not really into this yet, I have zero connection with the main character (and first person narrator). But it was so highly talked about, I’ll give it another chapter.

I ended up giving it three more chapters. I still had no connection at all with the main character, didn’t understand a lot of what was going on plot-wise or love-interest-wise, and wasn’t particularly blown away with the writing in general. When the next night came around, I anxiously picked up my Kindle, ready to settle into a great book… and then I remembered. It was that book. My heart sank. And that’s when I knew it was time to give up. I downloaded another book from the top of my TBR pile, and never looked back.

Last fall, I read a whole book that I wasn’t connecting with (mediocre writing, unrealistic character choices, not even edited well grammatically), but this book is a thing. It’s a big popular series–so it can’t be bad, right? I just wasn’t getting it? I still don’t know.

So here’s the thing… how much is too much? Or maybe more appropriately, how little is too little? When do you stop reading a book you’re just not connecting with? Do you give a book a chapter? Two? A single page?

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First Line Pressure

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I think that most readers (readers who are non-writers, anyway) take for granted the beauty of a great first line. Unless it’s just crazy famous like “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” or “It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen” or “Call me Ishmael,” most people don’t even remember what the first line of a book was by the time they come to the end. I’ll even say most people don’t remember what the first line was by the time they come to the second line. Ouch.

But still, that magical first line is all important. A good first line will give you a taste of the genre, the time, the setting, the mood, the main character and the voice.  A great first line will manage to sum up the entire struggle or premise of the story without telling you that’s what it’s doing. First lines are hard.

I’ve been struggling with mine for some time now. I had one that I loved – truly loved – but it turned out that I was starting my book in the wrong place, so the first line had to go. (I actually just moved it later and turned it into a bit of dialogue. I couldn’t bear to part with it.) And ever since I moved my opening to a more appropriate place, I can’t quite recapture the feeling of that original first line. Maybe it means I’m not starting in the right place again. Maybe it means that I’m not embracing the big picture of my novel early enough. Or maybe it means I’m putting too much pressure on myself to come up with a great first line.

So that’s my current struggle. Anyone out there have a first line tip to share? Or a first line that inspires you? Let’s hear it!