Wednesday, January 6, 2021

7 Reasons Readers Stop Reading #IWSG

The IWSG question of the month: Being a writer, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books? 

Writers stop reading for the same reasons readers stop reading, but experienced writers can be more succinct as to the reasons why. Here are a few: (Hint: most of them come down to editing)

1. Too much backstory. One of the biggest mistakes is to load the beginning with set up for the story. The history of the world, the backstory of the characters. The carefully laid-out details can wait. Or, they can be woven into the story in palatable bites rather than massive chunks that just bore the reader before they've even set foot in the story. Avoid the info dump.

2. Not enough backstory. Backstory adds richness to the characters, makes them well-rounded. It's essential in making the current story whole. Without any depth or history, the characters or world can come across as cartoonish and thin, lacking in realism, which makes it harder for the reader to make an emotional connection. 

3. Poor character motivations. I personally call this "because plot". Something happens that makes no sense to the characters, but the author wants it to happen to push the plot forward. I see this too often and it hurts. 

4. Poor pacing. A slow book where nothing happens is a sure way to turn off readers. Long passages of description can slow down the story. This doesn't mean you can't describe something, nor does it mean you need explosions in every chapter. It means the plot needs to keep moving forward, otherwise you'll bore your reader. On the flip side, I read a book that moved so fast, it left me breathless. It also left me not caring about the characters because they didn't stop long enough to even react to the events. 

5. Poor dialogue. Dialogue is more important than you might think. It's where the reader connects with the characters. It pulls you into a story faster than any description. But too often it's cliched, or stiff and drawn out. If the characters come across as wooden or predicable, then the reader won't make that all important connection. 

6. Not enough description. Too much description is often touted as a writing sin, but I'd like to add the other swing of the pendulum. With not enough description, the reader can't sink into the story. They are merely a distant observer. Without description, they can't taste the chocolate cake the character might be enjoying, they can't feel the chills racing across the character's skin because they can't see the clawing trees or the fog creeping across the ground as if on purpose. The trick is finding the balance of description so it doesn't slow down the moment in the story.

7. Poor editing...or no editing.  This one speaks for itself. Polish your story. Learn grammar. Get an editor. 

There are many more reasons a reader might stop reading, including: The book promised something and delivered something else; too predictable, thus boring; too many long-winded sentences; unlikable characters; unbelievable characters; lacking in clarity; and on it goes. 

What are some of the reasons you stop reading?

Wishing everyone a great new year. For some free books you might like, click HERE.




40 comments:

  1. Very detailed in what stops you. Shallow characters and too much description do me in. Often the over-description slows the story to a crawl. Like you said, if it's not moving forward is a turn-off.

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    1. I'm a bit of an analytical reader. It helps to improve my own writing. ;)

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  2. Share some similarities. Poor characterisation No 1, in its many forms. Glad there's at least one other writer who likes description, LOL. That's what makes a book stand out to me, especially when the setting is a character.

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    1. Your description is woven in beautifully and adds a wonderful atmosphere.

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  3. I see a lot of info dumps in the first chapter which means I never make it to the second one.

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  4. Excellent list and excellent reminders! The very first time I asked a reader to look at my very first book, she didn't get very far. On page 25 she wrote, "This is where your story begins." Lesson learned.

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    1. Ha! That second pair of eyes helps a lot. Sometime we can't see our own errors.

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  5. Great list! Finding that balance can be so tricky.

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  6. I think this is a great question for IWSG because the answers can double as advice for writers, and your post is a great example! What I take from it is that it's all about balance. Not too much or too little of any one aspect. Not always easy to do on a first draft but it's key to bear in mind on edits.

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    1. A first draft can be a mess... my first drafts are downright embarrassing...but the good thing is, I love editing! ;)

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  7. Hi Lynda - definitely weak endings - by then it's too late - but certainly can't enthuse about them. Your stories are great ... love the pacing, characters et al - they make fun reading. Have a good year - Hilary

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    1. Thank you so much, Hilary. Wishing you a wonderful year too.

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  8. Hi and Happy New Year!

    A great list for any writer to have by their computer.
    Wishing you a great 2021.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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  9. Nice! You got me thinking that too much or too little is a a problem. Pacing to slow/pacing to fast, too much description/ too little description - it really is a fine balance.

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  10. All good reasons to be cranky with a book, Lynda. Happy 2021.

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  11. Backstory has always been an issue for my writing. It usually takes too many drafts to count to fix it. Thanks for the reading recommendations.

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    1. The number of drafts doesn't matter. The quality of the final draft does :)

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  12. I can agree with that list. Fellow authors and myself take note! ;)

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  13. Hi Lynda! I stop reading when I sense the writer us in live with his/own writing.

    Happy new year!

    Blue

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    1. I assuming you mean overly flouncy, preachy, or self-indulgent writing... Wonder Woman 1984 comes to mind... ;)

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    2. Patty Jenkins is definitely in love with herself, I think she'd marry herself if she could.

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  14. All great points, Lynda. I still need lots of practice when it comes to dialogue. It bothers me to read my own writing that has stiff dialogue!

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    1. Dialogue is a special skill. Some people are particularly talented in that area. I have to work a little harder.

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  15. A lot of times, I stop reading because I get a certain way in and come to the realization that I really don't care. That might well be for one of the reasons you listed, but if I don't care what happens next then why would I read on?

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    1. That's probably the number one reason people stop reading.

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  16. Happy New Year! I'm praying 2021 will leave 2020 in the dusty background.
    I read purely for entertainment. If a story is dull and wordy, lacking forward progress, it's hard to continue.

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    1. anything that breaks the entertainment value :)
      Happy New Year, Cathrina

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  17. There is so much implausible motivation in books today, but since the readers have become more stupid most people don't notice it, methinks.

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    1. I think they do notice, but when there's not a lot of good stories to choose from, a mediocre story becomes great.

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  18. Yeah, not enough description can be as bad is too much. All dialogue and it starts to get annoying sometimes.

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.