4 Reasons I'll Stop Reading
Let's start with why I'm writing this: I'm editing at present, and I'm going through the book with these things in mind.
Once upon a time, I completed every book I started. It wasn’t a good policy. The result was bogged down reading time (because finishing them was not desirable, so I’d keep putting it off) and a general distaste for reading in general at times.
In the last few years, I’ve allowed myself to mark things down as DNF. Sometimes, I think I’ll go back to them… and sometimes I do. Most of the time, I set them aside for research purposes. That’s the point at which I’m most likely to go back and read through them.
Reading for pleasure is different than reading for research.
Ridiculous plots are one thing – they’re actually pretty awesome. In 99% of fiction, I can overlook plot problems with science and even irrational character reactions (people are often irrational) what I can’t overlook is bad or lazy writing.
Most of the time, I stop reading for these reasons:
The book is clearly a novel that should have been trunked as a practice novel –
When I read something in this category, I imagine it’s usually because the author doesn’t really read (I’ve even spoken with a few who will admit this proudly.) And it’s important to read and read widely. Books like this are clunky, usually filled with overdone tropes and often have hollow characters and simple plots. They’re often put out by authors who don’t want criticism.
Solution: Find a community of people you trust who are willing to tell you what’s wrong with your book. It might be hard to hear—sometimes the advice you need is going to hurt the most—and you definitely want to take a day or so after reading that criticism to fully process it. And if your book is broken, fix it. If it’s broken beyond repair… move on to the next idea. Practice makes perfect a better book.
The book noticeably hasn’t been edited or proof read –
I can get past a punctuation issue or a misspelling (I’ve come across those in best-selling authors’ works) but there is a point where too many becomes tedious and I just can’t do it anymore.
Solution: Again, more eyes. If you can’t hire a copy editor (and I do realize they’re expensive) try to get it to as many people as possible. In the conceptual stage, people who tell you “It’s great” and have no other feedback, aren’t the best people to have go through your book (This usually means you want someone other than your significant other, mom, etc. reading it.) At this stage, as long as they’re good at spotting typos, misspellings etc., get whoever the heck you can to do those final read-throughs.
The plot is just too similar to something else I’ve read and feels like a lazy rip off –
There are lots of people who will bemoan certain genres for being formulaic and having the exact same story on repeat with different characters. Most of the time, I don’t think that’s true. There are, however, some that do feel like they’re a rewritten version of something I’ve already seen, and those don’t do it for me.
Solution: This one can be solved by reading widely in your genre. That’s important. After all, this is a business and you need to know what’s out there so you don’t fall into the trap of rewriting a book that’s already out there and doing well. I’ve found these in almost every genre and most of the time, the one I find second isn’t as well known or as well written and that winds up getting it the DNF tag.
The book relies on sexist/racist/ablist tropes –
It’s 2016, anything written in the last 5-6 years, shouldn’t be a rehash of the CISHET able-bodied white male saving world, getting the girl and managing to defeat the evil guy who’s usually disfigured, disabled, or exhibiting signs of mental health issues (Yes, I’m looking at you, Bond). There are a ridiculous number of these. And let’s face it. It’s lazy and just adds to the glut in the market. I don’t want to hear about your teen boy who’s better than everyone else, manages to completely dismiss any woman unless he’s going to sleep with her. CISHET able-bodied white male protagonists still work. That’s fine, but if you provide me with a world where there’s nothing new and that guy’s a misogynist or an unconscious racist… I’m out.
Solution: Explore something outside the norm. Write up a character who is nothing like the one you’d usually write. Or, take your existing CISHET able-bodied white male protagonist and change an aspect of him. Look at how that changes the character’s outlook. Consider the differences in their conflict. It could expand the scope of your story and add layers of depth you didn’t know were there.
… Or some combination of the above.