How Not to Lose a Reader   10 comments

Why would you, as an author/reader, abandon (stop reading) someone else’s book?

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Confessions of a Book Glutton

I was practically born with a book in my hand and my parents weren’t very sympathetic to complaints about “boring” books — unless they were math books. They even made me read deadly dull history books that were clearly written to induce coma.

Consequently, there’s not much that has made me stop reading a book by another author. That makes me a good beta reader. (I’m looking for volunteers on my latest book, by the way, email lelamarkham@gmail.com if you want to swap).

Mental Adultery Avoided

There have been books I haven’t finished. Fifty Shades of Grey is one. I got about 50 pages in and returned it to the coworker who had challenged me to read it. Why? I felt like I was mentally cheating on my husband and the BDSM didn’t look at all loving to me. And, then the writing SUCKED and it wasn’t a beta swap so I couldn’t correct it, but felt like I should. Bus man’s holiday, much?

Bad Writing & Implausible Plots

The Twilight series was also a bust, mainly because the writing SUCKED. (Seriously, the movies were better and that happens so rarely it’s a miracle event). I was reading the first book with my then-teenage daughter and one evening we met in the hallway between our rooms and she actually asked me what I thought. I didn’t want to be Nazi Mom – she was 15 1/2 and at some point they have to decide their own standards — so, I reversed the question. She said “I can’t get over the fact that she loves this guy and she can’t see that she is food to him. Yeah, he’s enjoying playing with his prey before he kills her and maybe he’d like to mate with her before he kills her, but she’s still his food.” Yeah, that was pretty much what I thought too and I was proud of myself for raising a smart kid. I stopped reading at that point. She read a couple more of the books (the whole series was loaned to her by a friend who thought they were great books), but she finally returned the series unfinished. We did have a few shared laughs reading a blog that mocked the series. It was really the first sense I had of the power of blogging. Up to that point, I thought they were fluff online diaries by people who were more than slightly narcissistic, but that helped me to see that some serious analysis could go on in this new medium of discourse.

The Left Behind series also has gone unfinished. I always found the writing technically good and a little manipulative and shallow, but I could put that aside until my willing suspension of disbelief couldn’t go any further when a nuclear bomb landed on the heroes and they lived. It’s not that I don’t believe God could deliver such a miracle. I absolutely believe that God can do whatever God wants to do so long as it doesn’t violate His character, but I just didn’t feel pleased that the characters survived and I kind of felt like their survival violated God’s character. I looked at the next book in the series on the bookstore shelf and I just couldn’t plunk down the money for it. And then the longtime collaborator left and I really lost all interest.

Get out of the Cul de Sac

I almost stopped reading The Wheel of Time series. The last book Robert Jordan wrote just felt like he’d written himself into a corner and he was milling about trying to find his way out (I didn’t know he had cancer, which might have been what was going on). I swore to myself that I wouldn’t buy the next book. I just couldn’t face another description of Aes Sedai clothing and Rand beating himself up AGAIN for his failures. And then I heard that Jordan died and I was actually a little sad that there would be no ending, while consoling myself with the sense that there didn’t seem to be an ending anyway. And, then Brandon Sanderson took over and I decided to give him a chance (I’d not read books by him before). He is now one of my favorite authors and my poor husband will have to put up with me binge-watching the Wheel of Time television series if it ever makes it to streaming.

Can I Improve It?

So, what would cause me to stop reading another author’s book? Well, if it’s a beta swap, I’ll probably go the whole nine. If it’s boring, manipulative or poorly written, you’ll know that from reading my comments. I don’t hate you. I want to make you a better writer. You’ll notice that I praise some things. Do THAT and change what I was negative about to something like THAT, and you’ll be a better writer when you’re done. I hope you will give me the same courtesy. Don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings. I’m asking for critique. Give me what I asked for.

It’s a Business! Show Me the Quality!

If it’s a traditionally published writer – I have a low tolerance for bad writing when I’m paying to read your book. Seriously – books are pretty danged expensive these days (mainly because I still love to curl up with the physical copy of them and I read a lot of fantasy which tend to be fat books). The least you can do is give me a high-quality product. I now sample the beginning, the middle and something toward the end of the paperback I’m thinking of buying before I purchase it. Thank you, Barnes & Noble, for the great comfy chairs by the fire pit so I can be comfortable while deciding if a book is worth an hour of take-home pay.

Watch for this by year’s end

I’ll stick through a little boredom from writers, if it’s in a good cause — like world-building. I’ll stick through an occasional eddy where the writer creatively works out a narrative cul de sac (after all, sometimes characters have to return to their own vomit a few times before they fight their way out of whatever’s got them trapped). I’ll skim over the occasional sex scene (that’s how I got through the otherwise excellent Song of Ice and Fire). I’ll even put up with the occasional description of fancy dress. So long as these negatives exist inside a compelling story – I’m okay with that UNLESS there’s too much of it, in which case, yeah, I’ll stop reading it at some point.

Hey, Historians, Employ a Ghost!

And, by the way, I still read deathly dull history books, but here’s some advice to the historians who write books – thank you for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us, but seriously, if you can’t write, hire someone who can. What is killing the study of history is not that IT is boring, but that your writing about it is BORING. A good writer would make all the difference. There’s reasons David McCollough and Amity Schael sell books in the millions to ordinary people instead of a few hundred to academics and history-buff novelists. It’s because their writing is entertaining and avoids the passive voice. While some of us are committed enough to history to study it even when it is written in passive voice and drags on and on without any compelling story lines, ordinary people won’t. And, that’s a shame because those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.

Posted August 26, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

Tagged with , , , ,

10 responses to “How Not to Lose a Reader

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  1. Ugh, vampires and erotica. The former I just cannot take seriously, and the latter makes me want to jump in the bath and wash away what I’ve just had to beta read.

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  2. I love mixed genres, I love good, concise world-building and I love something that’s different. which is probably why I love Indie more than trad, Indies are happy to take risks, be experimental. I have found so many more trad books that I had to give up on.

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    • I like mixed genres too. I read thriller romance for example – Barbara Michaels and Phyllis Whitney were favorites. I always say I don’t write romance, but people fall in love when the world is sliding off the rails. I just want to make sure they don’t derail the main story.

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  3. I don’t like the Left Behind Series, either. It’s too overly dramatic and I know people who have taken it way too seriously in their real lives.

    My husband really likes the Wheel of Time series. I’m reading them because it’s a place where we can have an intersection of likes. But they are way detail heavy. I don’t actually need to know all the things. And the women in the books are practically small men with boobs. (just my personal complaint)

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  4. I’m debating about buying the next Longmire book. I felt cheated by the last one, it was such a departure from the previous books. Maybe I’ll wait and borrow it from the library instead.

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    • I just bought the first book in the series. I liked the television series, but I knew if I read the books, it would probably ruin it for me, so I waited until the last show. I’m sorry to hear the series takes a left-turn. Sometimes that is necessary for the development of characters or plot. While Gathering In in my Transformation Project will stay firmly in its lane, the 6th book will get a little different — and that’s absolutely necessary for the development of Shane’s character. As a discovery writer, I don’t really plot, but I do have a broad idea of how the series develops toward its completion and how each book progresses us to that conclusion. When I started sketching in for Winter’s Reckoning, I realized it’s the watershed book. Everything changes for Shane after that. So, I kind of feel free to do something a little different for his scenes in the next book. It’s for a good cause, after all.

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  5. I loved wheel of time. I think when he was sick he didn’t get to finish them appropriately, which is tragic. I stopped—disrupted by other things—before Sanderson took over. I’m glad to hear he’s good!

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    • Sanderson had been a longtime fan of Jordan, so he was pretty faithful to Jordan’s vision. The whole series had been plotted out and broad strokes written before Jordan died, so you almost wouldn’t know the writers had changed. Well worth finishing.

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