Lessons from a writer: What makes a good book?
We had another panel this week and another question! Last week’s question discussed traps writers might fall into. This week . . .
What’s the first thing you look for in a good book and the first thing that turns you off reading one?
One of the first things I look for is if the writer can make me visualize the scene.
Unnecessary swearing just for the sake of swearing turns me off reading. When you are reading a book and even the narrator is using profanity. Or, when characters use profanity that doesn’t stress the drama of the situation, if that makes sense. When the writer is just being vulgar just to get readers. – Matthew T. Fields
I’d say the first thing I look for in a book is genre. I can be a bit picky about what I read, though I do need to expand my horizons. If it’s some sort of non-modern fantasy, it’s a safe bet it’ll be enjoyable. Zombies? Oh yeah, definitely. What turns me off to a book is hard to say. I don’t think there is any specific thing. There are genre’s I stay away from, but I can’t really know if a book turns me off until I start reading it, and what it is that turns me off can be different each time. – Eric Smolinski
FIRST thing and LAST thing I look for in A GOOD BOOK is after reading a few sentences, the grammar and vocabulary allow me to keep reading flawlessly and smoothly—without finding mistakes, without sentences that don’t mean anything or go nowhere, without repetitive words and phrases, without proper dialogue showing who is speaking, without short/unsupportive sentence structure, etc. If the sentences flow nicely, I am willing to read on! – Bambi Pimental
The look of it, of course. If a book has gorgeous art and an attractively built cover, I’ll be interested. If I open the first page and the formatting is terrible, I’ll close it right back up.
Based on the words, though . . . Before I even open a book, I look for a back blurb that intrigues me. The back blurb isn’t just there to take up space. It hooks me for the story, makes me want to read it, and shows me a great glimpse into the author’s writing style. If it SOUNDS amazing, I’m going to read it and find out. On the other hand though, if a book’s first chapter is long and boring and doesn’t give me any sort of reason to want to keep going, it won’t matter how great the blurb was. I’ll fall asleep after a few pages and I won’t pick it back up. – Crystal M M Burton
Well, we all know the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” But, come on, we do. The cover is the first thing that draws us in. It is the image that invites us into that world. So, I look for covers that have excitement, great artwork, and give me a glimpse of the story. Then I’ll turn it over and read the back cover synopsis. What turns me off are covers where real life models are used and dressed up in a costume and just stuck on a cover. Covers like that tell me the author/publisher didn’t take the time to invest in a good cover. – Steve Guglich
The first thing I look for in a good book . . . Hmmm . . . I like good book blurbs. Something that will catch my attention. I know people now use key words in their blurbs to hit on the interests of potential readers, especially in fiction. But, sometimes, that’s not enough to grasp my attention. I like covers that might be telling of the story and for the description of the story to be not be bogged down with too many huge words. Give me the basics and a little hint into what I’m about to read. If it’s action, give me a quick action sequence in the blurb to let me know what I’m in for. The same with any other genre. I think books that provide these things are able to set the stage for the duration of the story. But this is just my preference. I like mystery as well as a small spoiler. – Tyronica Smith
I read authors, so any book by one of my favorites would be the first thing I look for. If I read a book by an unknown author, I will pick one after reading the cover blurb to see if the storyline interests me, then I will turn to a random page and read several paragraphs to see if I like the writer’s style. If so, I will usually buy the book. The first thing that turns me off would be an author who has stated fact in the book that obviously has not been properly researched. I’ll be disappointed at one occurrence but will stop reading if it happens again. The other big disappointment for me is if the writer gets lost in their own story. In other words, they don’t move the story forward but more or less write gibberish. – Cecelia Marriott Chittenden
Want to know more about today’s writing panel?
I am a stay-at-home mother and wife who spends my free time baking, crafting, and fangirling. I work from home as an author and freelance editor, and I insist my positive outlook has gotten me to where I am today.
Matthew T. Fields
I’m from Brooklyn, NY. I currently live in Danville, Ohio with my wife and daughter and a baby on the way. I self-publish. I have three books out already, and I’m working on my biggest project yet.
I am a writer of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’m working on my first fantasy series called, The Veil Saga. My goal is to have it ready for print by the Fall of 2017. To find out more about me and The Veil Saga, you can check out my website.
I am fortunate to have been born and reside/work in Bermuda (a small island in the Atlantic Ocean about 700+ miles off the East coast of the United States). I’m in my mid-40s, a single mom of a 22-year-old son, have a loving and caring live-in soul-mate boyfriend (he found & pursued me to my luck), and we all reside together in our home with my aging mother who needs care.
I love writing across genres. I’ve recently found a fondness for nonfiction, and the best thing next to an awesome cup of coffee is an even more awesome book! Creators create, readers read, and writers suffer long silences from tight-lipped characters 😛
I am currently working on my first novel, a fantasy adventure called Accrue’s End: Pursuit. I also have a short story titled Sight Unseen that will be published in Collective Ramblings Vol 2. I’m still learning a lot about the writing process but am getting a lot of help from amazing people on Facebook.
Cecelia Marriott Chittenden
I have been writing for many years but within the last two, made an attempt to publish any of my work. I self-published my first novel, Book One of a trilogy titled Pelicans Haven, in June of this year. I am currently working on Book Two and Three and a historical nonfiction novel.