Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Half-Finished Book, continued

After being away and dealing with a cranky computer, I’m slowly catching up on my reading and here’s a great article from the New York Times about the issue of whether to dump a book you don’t like or keep trudging through it. (I first explored the dilemma here.) Thank you, Paula Whyman, for passing it along.

Enticing excerpt:

Myla Goldberg (''Bee Season'') tells herself that reading a mediocre book ''would mean that I would eventually be on my deathbed having been deprived of the opportunity to read some other book, perhaps one that would have been really fun, or exciting, or even life-changing.'' [Michael] Chabon gives a book two pages, Goldberg allows it 15 to 50, and a book editor I know says that ''publishing turns you into a person who decides within five pages whether you'll like something or not and who puts it down (whether it's work or personal reading) without one ounce of guilt if the answer is no.'' She added, ''I know someone who swears by nothing more than the first sentence.'' What puts these readers off? The most complained-of quality is ''lyricism,'' the piling on of metaphors, similes and extravagant imagery. Also hated are long passages of description (particularly of weather and geology) and hokey framing devices like ''I remember well the summer I turned 14. . . .'' For the writer, the pitfalls are many, and one imperative rules: ''Your beginning better be just killer,'' Chabon says.

Note to self: Better re-revise that first page again!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.