Thursday, July 21, 2016

Editor's Notes #20: What Makes You Stop Reading a Book? Part 2 of 2


So in Part 1 of this topic, I told you all how I never allowed myself to stop reading in the middle of a book . . . until I started reading some really horribly written stuff when I got a Kindle a few years ago.

Now that I've given myself the okay to JUST STOP, I've found my tolerance level has gotten lower with each passing year and each subsequent novel. The hours in any given day are much too precious to waste on a bad book. I read for money when I edit. I read my Bible each morning. I read and correct my daughter's writing assignments. I read for my day job when my boss gives us a book for the management team to discuss, chapter by chapter. IF there is any time left between editing jobs or assigned books, I read for the sheer pleasure of it. Needless to say, if there's no pleasure involved, I'm not going to bother reading for long.

Here are a few things that will make me put a book down and never look back (unless I'm physically throwing it over my shoulder in the trash):

  • No edits. This is a non-negotiable item for me. If there are grammar/spelling errors, poorly constructed sentences, misuse of words, or worse (though I can't imagine what "worse" would entail), that book practically shuts itself.
  • Characters that are caricatures or stereotyped. The bad guy who has no depth because he's always bad, and not even interestingly bad . . . just "B" movie bad. The protagonist who's good at everything: sports, school, parents love him, no zits . . . you get the idea. The mysterious stranger who's not even mysterious for a good reason. The wise elderly person. The clumsy beautiful girl with low self-esteem.
  • If I have no desire to read beyond the third chapter. I need to care about someone—anyone—or something that happens in those first few chapters, or I'm done. If I find myself skimming to see if it gets better, then why continue?
  • Unrealistic dialogue. If an author writes a seven-year-old child into a book, that child should act and speak as a seven-year-old child, unless it's a creepy book where the child is possessed by an ancient being who speaks like . . . um, an ancient being . . . and everyone knows this isn't the way that child would normally speak. 
  • Plot inconsistencies. If I am confused, I tend to think that's everyday life. However, if I'm confused while reading fiction, I'll flip back through what I've read to see if I somehow missed a major plot point. If I haven't missed anything and I'm still confused, then I'm going to assume the plot somehow went from A to C without a Point B in the middle. This happens when an author makes major structural changes from draft to draft but neglects to look at the work as a whole to see if it still makes sense. Every detail matters, and that's where a good beta reader will be indispensable prior to a book's release.
  • Believability. Even the craziest fiction has to have some degree of believability or the reader will be drawn out of the story time and again. I always think of Martyn V. Halm (whose Amsterdam Assassin novels are pretty terrific and incredibly well written, by the way) talking about verisimilitude and his insistence that things at least seem like they could be real in order to keep the reader immersed in the created world, no matter how out-of-the-box that world may be.
I'm sure I have many more peeves that cause me to be harshly judgmental* about a book someone may or may not have worked hard at writing, but these are the biggest ones that come to mind easily. *Let's face it: I'm only kind and tactful if I already like the person.

What makes YOU stop reading? Do you look for things I haven't listed here? What's your number one deal breaker that causes you to shout, "Enough!" I'd love to know so I can add it to my own list of things to gripe about. And if you've read the list above and recognize something you do in your own books, then my best advice is STOP IT. Stop it and get a beta reader to politely and tactfully tell you all these same things, only for money.

I've placed a good guideline below. If you get "BINGO" from any of your manuscripts, it's time to start rewrites so others won't stop reading.

12 comments:

  1. I have no real rules for "dropping" a book. I try to finish what I start, but, having said that, I often fail miserably through no fault of the author's.

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    1. If I fail through my own part, then I never blame the author, but I do feel a wee bit guilty for those times, like I should be cultured enough to really want to finish something like Heart of Darkness simply because it's a classic.

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  2. When you were cycling through your stereotypes all I could think of was the role that always bugs me a lot in movies.

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    1. Me too! The Magical Negro, lol. I always feel bad for my Native American friends, too, since they're supposed to be more wise than everyone else or something.

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  3. I've made good use of the "read inside" option from booksellers and check the blurb against the reviews who mention plot. I feel like overall storylines can be subjective, so I just want to know that the blurb isn't painting a different picture from the book based on the reviews. Either way, yes, I agree with that Bingo card 100% lol

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    1. I get irritated at the reviews that claim the book was "not what they expected" and then proceed to tell why they were surprised at a storyline that could have been easily noted prior to purchase if they'd only read the blurb.

      And lol, the bingo game you DON'T want to win!

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  4. I love your Bingo chart. I avoid books that are pornographic. Willy Dunne Wooters told me the basic plot of Fifty Shades of Grey. No way would I read that. I've also heard that it's not edited.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I have it written right in my guidelines for anyone who wants to use my editing services: I don't edit porn. Believe it or not, I think I accidentally read the first chapter of Fifty Shades waaaay back when it first came out, because of it being on that Top 100 list for Kindle. Even if it hadn't been the awful plot that it was, I would have never finished because the writing was just so, so horribly done. I wouldn't have survived more than a chapter.

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  5. Hi human, Lynda,

    This was fascinating and informative. I totally relate to what you allude to. I stop reading a book if I discover an error such as an incorrect street name for a town. This might surprise you, but I've worked with a couple of pawblished authors in regards to their rough manuscripts. I had to point out a few inaccuracies in their description of a real-life setting.

    Thank you for this pawst.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny!

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    1. Penny, I've heard that from many people. If an author is going to write about a real-life setting, he needs to get his facts straight, because people from that area will call them on any inconsistencies in a heartbeat. Research, research, research!

      Please pass along my hellos to Gary . . . maybe even a cold, wet nose in his ear. He'll know I mean it in the kindest way.

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  6. The post was great, but holy crap, the Magical Negro and the wise Native American. That's hilarious. If we ever get white enough to drop either of those in a book, please slap us.

    So this is what caused us to stop reading a book just last week. It's a novel about a spy on a high stakes mission. He's going to sit down and play Texas Hold 'Em with the villain because of... reasons. Suspense is building.

    "This is a dangerous game," antagonist says.
    "Didn't I tell you?" hero replies. "I'm all about the danger."

    And then this is immediately followed by...

    Texas Hold'em is a community card poker game for 2-8 players, with game play focused as much on the betting as on the cards being played. The goal is simple: win as many chips as you can, one pot at a time... and so on and so on and so on.

    The dude copy and pasted the ENTIRE Texas Hold 'Em rule book from some website, which spans some 3-4 pages, and then he just resumes the high stakes battle like nothing ever happened. At that point I just had to put the book down. I've heard of authors making the mistake of thinking the reader is stupid and holding their hands unnecessarily, but this was just beyond ridiculous.

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    1. OH MY GOODNESS. No way. Who would do that and think it's okay? And who would edit it and think it's okay? And who . . . oh, arrrrghhh, the eye-rolling is making me dizzy. I imagine it read like, "We interrupt your reading pleasure with this very important public service announcement."

      And here I am, telling people that three sentences add up to too much inner thought between someone's question and the answer in their dialogue. I glaze over and am sort of in the "what were we talking about?" zone. I can't imagine multiple pages of a rule book in there.

      Thanks for making my day.

      Delete

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