“The Moment the Reader Lost Interest”

Recently one of my author friends said something on Facebook that I thought we should all think about:

Cleaned out an entire bookcase and donated never-going-to-read-again books. Discovered a disturbing array of bookmarks … and a renewed writing purpose: Aim to create stories that will never be discarded with place-holders marking the moment a reader lost interest.

Becky’s bookmarks … removed from books she didn't finish.

Becky’s bookmarks … removed from books she didn’t finish.

Good one, no?

What is the thing that makes a reader give up on a book?

Well, there is no one thing. It’s a different one thing with different books. It’s probably different for different readers too. (And I’m not speaking as an editor here. That’s a different list entirely.)

This is what will make Jamie-the-Reader set a book aside forever:

• Plot—it’s ridiculous, not believable, over-the-top; there’s no authenticity. I don’t buy it.
• Characters—they’re not believable (usually too perfect; in particular the handsome young rich guy); also (a corollary) really, really precocious kids.
• Editing—too many continuity errors (I’m much more forgiving of copyediting errors).
• Writing—leaden dialogue; it’s meaningless, boring, doesn’t sound like anything real humans would say.
• Plot—it’s very slow to start or appears to be nonexistent.
• Characters—don’t like the protagonist, don’t care about him/her, can’t muster up even a scintilla of empathy.
• Writing—purple prose, overwriting … after my initial giggles, it’s just tiresome.
• Editing—anachronisms in historicals. Get it right, for pete’s sake.
• Agenda—lecturing me, preaching to me, giving me what’s good for me. Save all that and just give me a great story.
• Writing—playing too coy with the details, so I can’t follow what’s going on, or at least I quit caring because I can’t hold on to the clues.
• Writing—using dreams to make characters do things or discover things.

I’m wired to like books, so my tendency is to keep reading, keep pushing through to the end. But as I’ve gotten older, I have less patience; I’ll quit while I’m ahead. And I don’t mind talking about it, either, as you know.

Now it’s your turn to talk: leave me a comment and tell me what makes you give up on a book.

Thanks to author Becky Melby for letting me use her photo and that great quote!


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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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  1. I will drop a book if the MCs are just ridiculously spiritual. Not if the characters are sharing Christ or at a Bible study, but if there’s a car chase and all of a sudden the driver, who’s driving a standard at gunpoint, BTW, has time to yell out “YA KNOW, THIS REMINDS ME OF A VERSE IN ROMANS WHEN PAUL WAS IN A SINKING SHIP!!!”.
    And then the kidnapper gets saved at they all go to a Beth Moore study at the local church that was built by reformed criminals.
    Or enough story threads to weave a bus cover.

  2. Yes. What Jennifer said!!!! :)

  3. MJ says:

    I personally need to laugh, cry or feel deeply on some level in the first ten pages of fiction. I don’t want to be preached to, and I will not tolerate typos in any genre. I will not read them and certainly will not promote a poorly edited book. The reader deserves better.

  4. Evelyn Shobin says:

    I agree with your list — and one more thing I, personally, hate:

    When the author thinks he/she is creating a *strong woman* character, but all he/she is really creating is a sarcastic bitch. Ugh.

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  1. By Short Saturday: Why I Stopped Reading Your Book on 13 August, 2016 at 2:19 pm

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