Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You’re Only As Good As Your Last Page

The other night my wife and I stopped into one of our favorite sushi bars for a little dinner. It’s just a little place, featuring Thai and Japanese cuisine, maybe 12 tables in all, most of them for two; a few for four.

It’s always been a happy place for us, and it’s not just because we love the food. Every time we walk in, the place is warm and inviting, the sushi chef recognizes us and welcomes us in, the wait staff – even if they’re new – is warm and genial and seats us quickly, or lets us pick a table, or… whatever.

It’s a place we go when we need a pick me up, a warm, welcome respite after a bad day or a long day or just… a Tuesday. But the other night, man, it was like someone had sprinkled bad mojo dust all over the place.

For one, a big sign on the front window proclaimed they were closing the next day for the last two weeks of the year. There was no one inside, and my wife literally were like, “We should go.” But then one of the waitresses walked into view, saw us and we were busted, so… in we went.

But the waitress was new, and didn’t say a thing. I was like, “Are you guys open?”

She kind of yawned and said, “Yeah, we’re open.”

Yikes. My wife and I kind of exchanged looks and sat down. It was just… odd. And it never got better. Even when a familiar face or two showed up, like the sushi chef and hostess, they could barely be bothered.

We hurried up and ate and left and on the way out, my wife and I looked at each other and shuddered. Then she said something that’s stuck with me ever since: “Gheez, I’m glad this wasn’t the first time we ever ate there. I’d never go back.”

Okay, so, long story but here’s the payoff: You’re only as good as your last page. Meaning, make it worthwhile. And I’m not just saying the “last page” of your book. I’m talking about the last page someone just read of your book, whether it’s page 5, 15, 50 or 250.

My nightstand currently has about seven different books from three or four different genres; some YA, a few cozy Christmas mysteries, a western, whatever. Half I’ll never pick up again because the last page I read just didn’t inspire me to read any further. I got through the first 15 or 20 pages before I fell asleep, picked it up a second night just to give it another chance, but… that’s about as far as I’m willing to go.

I don’t want to have to “work for it,” you know? Even if it’s a book I spent a lot of money on, or by one of my favorite authors, or a Christmas or YA book I *really* want to get into, there’s a certain point where even I throw in the towel.

So give them something to keep reading. I’m not saying use cliffhangers or gimmicks or “tricks,” per se, but just try to avoid the filler, the long exposes, the stretches that may matter a LOT to you but might bore or even disinterest the reader. Edit carefully and, if necessary, a little ruthlessly.

One thing I really enjoy about writing eBooks is that none of my ePubs have strict word requirements. If it’s too short, they’ll call it a novella, but pretty much if my story is complete at 50,000 or even 40,000 words, we’re both good with it.

That way I’m not looking for ways to add another 30,000- or 40,000-words just to make some mandatory and, frankly, unrealistic word count. It lets me tell a complete story tightly, and allows me to keep things moving fairly briskly.

That helps me keep every page lean and moving in a forward motion so that, hopefully, the last page – and every page in between – is as good as the first!

Yours in YA,


PS: Happy Holidays everyone!!!


Anonymous said...

Excellent post and advice, Rusty. Thanks for sharing the insight.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Barbara!!! I appreciate the feedback -- and the comment!

Rebecca Royce said...

THIS IS SO SO SO TRUE. And something like that just happened at my favorite sushi place.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Rebecca! I have a bad feeling about our favorite sushi joint. I just get the feeling, my wife did too, that they're never going to reopen after the holidays. I still have the sads about it days later. I hope I'm wrong!!! Thanks for reading and commenting; you rock!!

E. Van Lowe said...

Great advice as awlways. I think just like you, Rusty. I'm not trying to write a fat book, I'm trying to write a GOOD book, or short story or novella.


Anonymous said...

E, you rock; thanks for taking the time out to come by and read the post, and leave a comment. (Even if I'm seeing it a few weeks late!!)