In preparation for the horrific task of going back over my ms another time, I’ve been trying to pinpoint at what point an agent/editor would stop reading the ms. and why. And along with that I’ve been thinking about why I stop reading books. Hence:
I only finish about 30% of the books I start and it’s mainly because of quirks in my own reading habits. But sometimes I can pinpoint the reason. I’m making this list mostly to help myself as a writer so I’d be pleased if you added your reasons for not finishing a book on to the list. I have a friend or two that finish everything they start but most people probably put books aside. Why?
1. I put books aside because I find the writing itself unappealing. Either it’s poorly written, too dense or lacks grace. I read because I love language so I need to find some nicely put together sentences.
2. I find the subject matter itself unattractive. If there is too much talk about money, or arms deals or child torture, I will probably not finish it. (Maybe these are the very things that make you keep reading though) What don’t you like to read about?
3. There are too many POVs introduced too rapidly. I need to latch onto one person for a while and begin to see the world through his/her eyes. If each two-page chapter switches POV, I feel uncommitted and at sea. Who was that guy two chapter back? Do I need to remember he’s on a bus? Is the old man on page 5 Romaninan or Ukranian. I hate thumbing back.
4. Someone recommends a supposedly better book, says I have to read it and thrusts it in my hands. And similarly:
5. A book I have reserved at the library comes in and I only have two weeks to read it.
6. I am halfway though the book and it seems too familiar, and guess what, I remember I read it already. Or I didn’t read it but I read a book too much like it. Or a lot of books I’ve read are too much like it.
7. The print is too small or too light. This is a new one and is almost surely a function of my age. Is darker print really that much more expensive? (I also avoid blogs where the print is too small and dense).
8. The book begins to feel inauthentic. Characters start to act out of character. I lose a sense of place or period. There is no psychological underpinning for what the characters are doing. Events seems arbitrary--the reason I stopped watching LOST.
9. The story seems too drawn out or too rushed. Like the author was assigned a certain number of pages for the book.
10. The books is due at the library and I just don’t like it enough to pay the fines. I buy around 100 books a year, but I take twice as many out of the library. Of that 300 books, I probably read 75. Twenty years ago, I read 150 books a year. Largest reason: the Internet.