The topic I’m going to talk about today is somewhat contentious, given that it is the very bread and butter of a published author (my ultimate career goal). Admitting it seems like a counter-intuitive move, but I’ll say it anyway.
I don’t really like starting a new book.
Eek, there it is! I feel like I’m confessing to a dirty secret. And I can imagine the expressions of incredulity that might emerge in response to it: What? A writer saying she doesn’t like to read something new? She must be daft. And she’s definitely in the wrong business.
Just wait a minute and hear me out. I know that the very concept of selling a book relies upon a reader wanting to open it to that first page and then turn to the next one. And I still do it, of course I still start new books. But I don’t overly enjoy that stage of the reading process, that’s all…!
Why not? To be honest, it’s because I find it hard to get a foothold in a brand new story. In the first few pages, I’m trying to figure out what’s happening, who I should like or dislike, whether the narrator is someone I can trust. It’s like a painting concealed by a layer of wax, and I’m scratching at it inch by inch to unearth what’s beneath. And then, once the whole picture is revealed, I can finally settle in and begin to savour the view.
Of course, this unsettling period is precisely what appeals to other types of readers – they revel in the unknown and the gradual discovery of what is afoot. For me, I am always cautious at the start until I’ve confirmed that the book is going to hold up to the promise of whatever hook tempted me to pick it up in the first place. I simply remain on my guard until that wariness dissipates.
This all brings me to another subject I’ve been meaning to talk about: the question of reading standalone books versus book series. No prizes for guessing which I prefer. A series holds the greatest attraction to me because each new instalment is a refreshing start and yet remains within a familiar framework. There is no period of uncertainty – or, at least, it is generally more minimised.
The other reason I like reading series so much is that, when I find characters I adore, I despair at the idea of having to let them go after I turn the last page, so being able to carry on with them into the next volume, and the next, is a joy. I sometimes feel short-changed if I fall in love with a character and invest so much time and emotion in them, only for their story to be over in the space of one mere book.
That’s not to say I would reject a book purely because it has no sequel. I’ve read plenty of standalone books and treasured them dearly, and will continue to read more. But my preferences will always lean towards longer, meatier series of books if the option is available.
So that’s the conclusion I can draw from these ruminations: I’m not particularly keen on getting stuck in, but once I’m in I’d rather stay in…!
What about you? Do you experience something similar when you start a new book? Or do you relish the mystery of it? Are you a fan of standalone books or series? I’d love to hear your thoughts!