Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beginnings...OR... Endings?

MOOD STATUS: "Tired". I'm going to make a doctor's appointment. I've been feeling a little off and I can't figure out why.

I said I'd dish on the conference, so everybody grab your spoon. :)

There were a few things from various workshops that have stuck with me. I'm sorry to say this doesn't happen often. Not that most workshops aren't good, but...
Well, let's just say I like to socialize more than take classes.

One workshop that's been in my head was done by Jennifer Crusie.
(In case you're not up on your authors, Jenny is a NY Times, USA Today and Publisher's Weekly bestseller and a two-time RITA award winner. Lately, she's been writing romantic adventures in collaboration with military thriller writer Bob Mayer.)

Anyhew, her workshop was on Beginnings and Endings. Obviously as a writer, it's very important to have those two things going for you: a strong beginning and a strong ending. Duh. Otherwise, who would read your book? (I mean, besides your mother) But...

if you had to choose... which do you think weighs more heavily on a reader?
The beginning or the ending?

This is not a trick question. And there's really not a right or wrong answer. But Ms Crusie definitely has her opinion about it. And her writing collaborator Bob Mayer has his opinion on it, too. Not a big surprise that two huge authors could disagree.
(If you ever followed the She Wrote/He Wrote blog, you'd know that Mayer and Crusie don't always see eye to eye on things.)

Well, I'll go out on a limb and say that I happen to agree with Crusie that your ending is more important than your beginning.
What?!!! Santa Maria! Say it isn't so!

Yes, I know! But think about this:

Scenario one: How many have of you have picked up a book, read the first 1/3 of it and loved it? Absolutely loved it! Then something happened along the way and then by the end, you wanted to throw the book up against the wall.

Got that? Ok. Would you give that author another chance?

My answer would be no.

Scenario two: How many of you picked up a book, wasn't that thrilled with the beginning but somehow decided to persevere and continue reading only to be overjoyed that you did because the rest of the book and the ending was phenomenal?

Got that? Ok, now, would you give that author another chance?

Since this recently happened to me and I even blogged about it, my answer would be yes. I would give that author another chance if her ending satisfied me.

So, there. If I had to choose, I'd say ending is more important, too. When I close that book the ending is going to be in my mind for a good long time.

What about you? IF you had to choose, which do you think is more important, the BEGINNING or the ENDING of a book?


36 comments:

Jody Hedlund said...

Those are two very great points about endings! If I make it past a slow beginning, and the middle is good and the ending is fantastic, then I probably would read another of the author's books! But the trick is whether I'll persevere through a slow beginning! So, I guess the key is getting both up to par!

Angie Ledbetter said...

The beginning's the important thing in getting an agent/publisher, but the book needs to sustain all the way through, then finish with a bang. (How's that for a long sentence?) Need.more.java. :)

Chicki said...

I agree that the ending is more important. It's what makes me go out and buy that author's next book.

Being an impatient person, if an author loses me in the middle of the story, I might never get to The End.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Beginning is my vote. Last night I picked up three books to start. Put down two of them. I don't tolerate slow beginnings.
~ Wendy

Jessica said...

I definitely think the ending is important. A good book has a good beginning and ending, but for me to read that book again, the ending should be awesome! A book with a great ending is a book I'll remember.

Natalie said...

Hmm, before I read your post I would have said beginning (you've got to hook the reader right), but now I think you're right. There's nothing that can turn me off to an author faster than a lousy ending.

Anissa said...

Endings make or break a book for me. If it isn't memorable, I'm less likely to remember the book, no matter how much it hooked me in the beginning. A beautiful ending can do a lot to redeem a book that may have lagged in spots.

Tamika: said...

Before reading your scenarios I would have said the beginning, but now I agree that the ending is more important.

My Mother commented this morning about a book that she was less than pleased with at the beginning and the middle. She skipped to the end and was pleased with the outcome and decided to go back to the rest of the book.

Good point.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Oh, Jennifer, I think you need both to be strong. If I don't like the beginning, with the number of books on my TBR pile, I won't read it through to find out the ending. If I like the beginning, but the ending stinks, I won't purchase another of their books.

That said, if you're just after me buying one book of yours, then you better make the beginning good because I won't even buy it if it isn't good. I read the first lines at least before purchasing any book from a store. So, bottom line, just to get the first book up to the cash register, the beginning has to grab me. So beginnings are useful for first sales. But if the ending stinks, then there is no second sale for me. If the beginning stinks, there's no first sale, though, either.

Make sense?

Stephanie said...

Hmmm...Can I sit on the fence and say I'm a little high maintence? My beginnings have to get me hooked, but my endings have to bring me back.

Joanne said...

My vote is cast for endings. The books I remember and go back to usually have very effective endings that leave me thinking. And I understand if I'm not hooked by page three that often a story must build, and before I know it, I am immersed. So the beginning isn't as important.

T. Anne said...

First, I'm so jealous you got to take a class from Jen Crusie! Awesome! OK, Now... I'm really more of an ending girl only because i long for the satisfaction of the HEA and am highly disappointed if I don't get it.

SPEAKING FROM THE CRIB said...

definitely the beginning - b/c if you don't hook them at the start there's a good chance that they will put it down prematurely at least that's what i would do

Dawn Simon said...

Excellent question. I'm torn, though. If the beginning doesn't grab me, an outside factor might be necessary to keep me reading (e.g., recommendations from people I respect, it's by an author I already like, etc.). But you're so right--a lame ending makes you feel ripped off. So I'll waffle and say I can't decide.

Kristen Painter said...

I'm going with both as well. And really, if the middle sags you need to work harder. Nothing should be lacking, and having one area better than another is no excuse!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Well...
The finish is more important to me, but I know the first five words, paragraphs and pages are most important to an editor. And if I don't impress an editor, my book will never get into the hands of my all-important readers.

So I think the start must be most important, but the finish has to be a snap-banger too, or like you said, they won't be back for more...

Susan R. Mills said...

Definitely the ending. I've read many books with weak beginnings, but the endings made up for it. These are the books I recommend to friends. These are the authors I will read over and over again.

Diane said...

Definitely the end for me also. Leave that good taste in my mouth for next time too. :O)

Beth said...

Since I have to choose, I'm going to say beginning. I can't stand a book that doesn't grab me from the start, but I totally see the point about having a great ending that makes you want to read more from the author.

I think maybe authors who have written more than a couple of books can have the liberty? is that the right word? to have an "okay" beginning and people will still push through the rest to see if it's any good. A new author, maybe not so much.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I'm loving hearing everyone's opinions!
Keep them coming!
This is getting good! LOL!

PatriciaW said...

The beginning is the food when you first put it in your mouth. The ending is after you've swallowed, the taste that remains. Better be good.

I'll go with endings, but the beginning has to be good enough to get me to chew and swallow, or I'll never know.

Stephanie Faris said...

I suppose it's possible but honestly? If I'm to chapter two or three and it isn't happening for me, I put it aside. I've stuck with many books before thinking they'd get better only to find I couldn't stand them. After a while I find I'm just procrastinating reading because I dread trudging my way through it. Life's too short to read bad books!

Erin said...

hmm.. that's something i've never really thought about. at the beginning of your post i thought, "well obviously a beginning has to be good enough to hook you in." but after reading your analogy i agree that an ending is more important. there are books i've read where the beginning has definite potential but halfway through i get frustrated and disappointed. not enough character growth or story development. and i think to myself, "I could have done a better job than this." needless to say, i never read anything by those authors again.

Shelley Munro said...

You know I would have said the beginning, but after reading your reasoning I'm wavering a bit. These days if a book doesn't grab me by the first chapter I'm on to the next so I might not even get to the improved part.

Regina Quentin said...

I love love beginnings that draw me in as much as the next person, but I would have to agree with what you said for the exact same reason. I was reading a book that I wasn't that impressed with at first. I trudged through and was so happy with it when I finished that I bought the rest of the series.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Definitely the ending. I'm willing to give books a good long chance before I set them down-if I feel they're going somewhere good. A strong and satisfying finish is what sells me on the next book.

Terri Tiffany said...

Agree with the ending! I have forgiven an author alot if the ending is wondeful! If it isn't, trust me, I remember and don't like them or trust them for a good one the next time!

Elizabeth Bradley said...

It boils down to: it all matters. The beginning hooks the reader, the middle keeps them reading, and the ending must be satisfying enough to make them buy your next book. Sigh. Sounds like a lot of work, and an almost impossible task.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I agree. Even though the beginning is what initially grabs the reader (and interests the agent), the ending is what will keep the reader coming back and will leave an overall feeling about the story.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I'm reading Hooked write now which is all about beginnings, so I'm a bit focused on that. But I definitely see both sides. I guess that's why we need to make sure BOTH are great.

Joyce Wolfley said...

When I started reading I thought..of course it is the beginning. But then your comment made me spin around. Wow- the ending makes a huge difference. Last impressions are just as important as firsts.

Kelly H-Y said...

For those I'm reading, I'd definitely have to agree with it being the ending.
Hope you're feeling better soon!

Marianne Arkins said...

At the risk of being a cop-out, I think both are important. I read the ending before I start a book (yes, I know, I've heard all the horrified gasps before), but I also have very little time to read, so you have to get my attention in the first few pages, or I won't go any further.

As a writer, though? In order to get an editor or agent to read your stuff, your beginning needs to be stellar.

Diane Craver said...

I've gone to Jennifer's workshops - she's awesome. Glad you enjoyed it!

Sande said...

Been thinking about you. Wondering if any more clues on why you've been tired?

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