There's something scary about the beginning of a good book. It all starts out so innocently - you laugh at the first couple pages, agree with some of the narrative and if you're me, read it to the person sitting next to you.
Words progress, and you become emotionally involved with the character, admiring the witty dialogue, and find yourself reading more than you planned.
Then forty-four pages in, this terrifying realization sinks in: you really like this book. You'd recommend it to other people, but you can't - because you don't know how it ends.
That's the kicker - the better the beginning, the greater the disappointment if the writer screw up. Some examples -
Avoiding Prison, and Other Noble Vacation Goals - flat out hilarious, depressing (sorry, "disquieting") at the end.
Hypocrite in a Poufy White Dress - again, the beginning deserved to be framed. Then I wanted to clap my hands over my eyes during the middle, while the end was pretty good. But can you recommend a book when the entire second act inspires a gag reflex?
There was another book I can't remember the title of, but it was a modern take-off of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Loved it, until the author slipped in a scene that I'd rather like out of my head.
I'm also finding the ones with the most disappointment potential are the ones with the best title. The book inspiring this riff is Tolstoy Lied: A Love Story. And it's really, really good so far. As in, I want my own copy. And I'm petrified that author's going to get in the way of my transcendental experience.
Moral of the story: writing a book is hard. One scene can make the difference. The lack of a scene can make the difference. Writing is putting something down, then calling everyone who read it to make sure it's okay and you still qualify as a writer. It's ensuring that you're not cheating your readers. When someone's placed their faith in your prose to read your book instead of mowing the lawn, watching Desperate Housewives on DVD or staring at the ceiling, it's your responsibility to make it worth their time.