Why I Stopped Reading

Not everything! Just one particular book. It’s what some popular book review blogs call a DNF, to borrow from auto racing terms: Did Not Finish.

It was a free download, so I didn’t feel as obligated to finish as I might have if I’d paid for it. It wasn’t by someone I know, or anyone I network with, so that also cut down on the potential guilt factor. And I gave it a chance: it was approximately 75,000 words, and I read over 25% before I gave up on it, deleted it from my smartphone, and moved on.

boring e-book

Life's too short to read boring books!

I always like to analyze why I give up on a book, so I can learn something from it. The reason I put this one aside? One word: boring!

So what made this book boring? Or to put it another way, what did this book lack?

Well, for starters, it was a straight contemporary romance – no suspense or paranormal –  which I’ll admit is not my thing unless it’s a) really funny or b) really sexy or c) really emotional. This book was none of those. While it had its mildly humorous moments, they were super-mild, and I don’t know if they were even amusing enough to make me smile. It did have a consummated love scene in the portion I read – and I felt none of the rush of excitement or desire when the characters got it on. Instead, it was glossed over pretty quickly. But what really killed it was that the emotions were barely hinted at – and this was one of those best friends to lovers stories where the emotional whirlwind is key.

Add to that the fact that this was an office-set romance – which I have nothing against, but in this case, there were way too many boring details about work and again, at the cost of the emotions, the excitement and the fear the characters should have felt at risking being found out – and the impact it could have on their careers.

In a romance novel, emotion is what it’s all about. In a paranormal romance, some of the slack can be taken up by the weirdness of whatever situation the character’s in, otherworldly setting, magic, whatever. In a historical or suspense, there’s often other stuff going on that can pick up some as well. In this book, the author seemed to be trying to do this with the character’s work – which might have been okay if it was interesting, but it wasn’t.

In the book’s defense, it was well-written from a technical standpoint, it had an interesting premise, and characters that could have been people I’d have enjoyed spending a few hours with, had their emotions been better drawn. The book wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t have kept reading – except like most people, I have a To-Be-Read list (and pile of print books) that’s easily over a hundred books, if you count freebies I’ve picked up at conferences over the years that I still haven’t gotten around to reading. So with all that “competition” for my time…. life’s too short.

And this, I suspect, is the battle all authors face.

Read (or tried to read) any boring books lately? Or any that you just couldn’t see the point in finishing? Care to share why? If you’re an author, do you try to pick these apart to learn what not to write?

25 Responses to \

  1. Yes! In fact I picked up and put down 4 books before I found a good one recently. I’m with you — to many books I want to read to spend time with a book that’s boring, has characters I don’t care about or basic grammar problems.

  2. This is The Big Fear that most of us have when we’re writing a book, Jen. We worry that what we find interesting will be boring (or worse) to readers. The only way I know of to avoid these traps is to have beta readers who will be honest enough to tell me. How do you deal with it?

  3. I give books 50 pages to hook me. If I don’t care what happens to the characters at that point, I move on. I’ve grown much more carefree about quitting books in the last several years. Time is short, and there are so many great books. Sometimes, the book isn’t well-written, and sometimes it simply isn’t my cup of tea. Either way, I need to find a novel that draws me in and won’t let go.

  4. I laughed out loud when you said that in paranormal the “weirdness” can take up some of the slack. But it’s very true, too. In a plot driven story, there can be a lot less emotion and the book will still work.
    I recently read one where not much at was going on. Just the couple. And it was so predictable and bland it was hard to keep reading. I just didn’t care about them. Not much emotion and not much action, either, makes for a poor read.

  5. I hate to admit that I do start and stop books. . .If I get bored, I begin to re-write the story in my head. Then I have to go write on my manuscripts. Vicious cycle of being a writer/reader.

  6. I’ve only recently been able to stop reading a book once I start…I feel so much guilt when I do it! Silly, I know. But one in particular I meant to do as a review and after giving it about half the book I concluded I had nothing good to say. The biggest problem with that one was grammatical errors. I don’t mind a typo here and there or a comma splice…we’re all human. But this one was a copy-editing crime scene. It was too hard to read! Add to that the story didn’t flow. I think I’d have made it further if it hadn’t been such a struggle to read. It’s worth the money to pay a professional editor to fix that stuff!

  7. I can tell pretty quickly if I want to read on and these days I don’t have time to plod through 600+ pages on the road to nowhere, which is what happened to me last year. The reason I stuck with it was because the story had a huge potential to be wonderful, but it needed a stronger editor with a red pen. The person who edited it was obviously in awe of the writer. And the writer, who is an academic, placed herself between the story and reader so many times I almost tore my hair out. Like Tonya I kept re-writing the story in my head. I won’t be reading the sequels.

  8. This might be a first….. poor Jennette did a very good job of providing professional courtesy by not identifying the book she couldn’t finish, except that who knows a book better than the author? The book in question is mine. 🙂 And yes, I am chuckling as I write this. We swapped some backdoor chatter on FB and I’m posting this with her permission. This way, other authors can sigh in relief, it’s not their book she couldn’t finish.

    I knew from the conception that CANCELLED would challenge genre rules that many readers hold dear. While I took out a great deal of the typical emotional scenes on purpose, it’s always a gamble to make those kinds of decisions. At the end of the day, I have a book that straddles genres, it’s a little bit of a couple different ones. A mash up, if you will.

    But it’s totally on me that the book didn’t capture Jennette’s attention. And she rightly points out, we as authors are in a tough competition for a reader’s valuable time. I’m thankful she took a chance on my book, something about the book sparked enough of her interest that she read outside her normal comfort zone. And I’m thankful she took the time to explain why she put it down. Seriously, how many authors get that kinda intelligence? That makes me lucky! 🙂

    And my own confession? I have books by very dear author friends I couldn’t get past page 10 on. Yes, they have many fans, some are even mega-sellers. I don’t usually feel guilty because I have eclectic reading tastes. As I told Jennette, a negative review doesn’t hurt my feelings in the least. She didn’t like the book, but she still likes me. 🙂

  9. Carrie, you nailed it – there’s just too much else out there to read, especially now with the instant gratification of ebooks! Thanks for stopping by.

    Diane, I do what you do – I have trusted beta readers who are also writers, and are good enough friends to tell me when something isn’t working. I’m sure the only reason I haven’t gotten any stinker reviews is because my book hasn’t been that widely read yet. I’m also pretty sure this author has beta readers too – thing is, they’re probably her market, and I’m not.

    Julie, that’s exactly what I did – since it was e, and stated to be ~75k, I figured 25% would be at least the equivalent of 50 pages in a mass market paperback. Thanks for chiming in!

    Michele, that’s pretty much how this book hit me. And I know I use the time travel and suspense as a crutch to prop up underdeveloped emotion, and try to catch this in revision. Thanks for your comment!

    Tonya, I’m LOL – I do the same thing, only move on pretty quickly to thinking about my book and what I’d do differently. Thanks for stopping by!

    Melinda, I’d have stopped reading that one, too – and probably wouldn’t have gone for 50 pages even. Luckily, this book wasn’t one of those – it was very well-written technically; I didn’t notice a single typo or grammatical error. I used to feel guilty too! I think that lessens with age. 😉

    Elizabeth, it was fun chatting with you! At first I felt terrible, that I’d left in too many details and you were able to identify your book. But you are a total class act! I have no doubt that you’ll go far in this business – as shown here, and on your own blog, that you are always interested in learning and getting better. I know I am always learning (and I hope getting better)!

    I won’t be posting any reviews – I feel that’s something that should only be done when I’ve read the whole book, and if I’m not drawn in enough to give something 4 or 5 stars, I generally set it aside. I did not read any of the reviews on Amazon before I downloaded this book, but I knew Elizabeth had gotten some nice reviews on it. And she’s right, she took on a very tricky line to walk: writing a guy with appropriately-male emotions, but who’s not a she-ro. And that’s what drew me to the book in the first place. Bottom line, I’m just not her market, but who knows? I might have to sample the next one when it comes out!

  10. For me the book was The Private Patient, by P.D. James. I picked it up digitally from the library after all the broohaahaa about P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberly, and because a friend I know loves P.D. James. I found myself falling asleep with the heavy introspection and author intrusion. The book went back to the library via the air waves before I finished it. The only thing I regret is I don’t know who was the killer, but I just couldn’t slog through to the end to find out. Anyone out there know the ending?

  11. LOL Catherine – that reminds me of one I couldn’t even give 50 pages – by Stephen King, no less!! It was Blackhouse, co-written with Peter Straub, and a sequel to The Talisman, which I looooooooved. Blackhouse started out with ten pages of omniscient description of the town Jack, the protag from The Talisman, now lived in, and briefly described Jack as well, but it was soooo boring! Actually it might have gone on for more than ten pages, but I couldn’t read any more! Never read anything by PD James, so I have no idea about your DNF. Thanks for commenting!

  12. Jen, I like your idea of analyzing why we stop reading a book. Recently I stopped reading a blockbuster book twice, both times at around page 60. The beginning is a lot of exposition and talking heads. But friends told me “it gets better,” and I gave it a third try. I’m glad that I did. Those clumsy first 100 pages set up a good story, and the payoff is worth it.

  13. I’m so glad the author stopped by. She experimented and for you it didn’t work. it’s like Jude Devereaux’ time travel (A Knight in Shining Armor). it was a genre straddling book in its day. people loved it or hated it but she started a whole new genre. My deep dark secret is that I don’t like heavy paranormal books. I’m ok with a bit of magic or angels but werewolves? shape shifters? etc etc ??? I don’t even pick them up. Obviously I’m not in the majority, since they sell so well. but not my cup of tea. glad you stopped reading Jennifer. No book is worth exchanging moments of my life to read unless I’m enjoying the read. well done. and thanks for being b rave enough to post your feelings. I really appreciate it.

  14. Oh, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has done that recently. I feel so guilty when I stop reading, and it’s something I don’t often do. I had bought the book at a book fair when I heard the author speak (not read) and it sounded like such a great story. The story may have been great, I’ll never know. I stopped reading because the writing was so bad. I just couldn’t do it. I put it down and I haven’t looked back. Since then I’ve read two amazing books, so that helps with the guilt. I think your exercise of looking at why you stopped is a great tool. I’ll do that with the next book I stop reading.

  15. Fabio – I’ve heard a lot of people say that <1>The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is a fantastic book… if you can slog through the first 50 pages or so. I’m wondering if that’s the one you’re talking about? Several people have recommended it to me; my mom started it but couldn’t get into it and finally decided life’s too short. Glad you found yours worth it in the end!

    Louise – ironically, since I write time travel, one book that didn’t work for me was Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. I did finish it, but only because friends kept raving about it. That one didn’t work for me because it was way too research-heavy. If I wanted to know that much about herbal medicine, I’d get a nonfiction book. Yet so many love it. Thanks for stopping by!

    Emma – I feel guilty too. You’re right, reading something awesome does help in that regard! Right now I’m reading a book that’s so good it keeps me on the treadmill longer than I planned! Maybe I’ll blog about that one soon.

  16. I’ve had books were I had to wade my way through the first 100 pages before I got that hook. It was horrid! Horrid I tell you. But – one of my favorite books took off from that point. I will eventually blog about it on IM. The character set up, HOLY HELL! I would have put it down if a friend had not urged me to read it. There are only two books I have put down. One I paid for (big name too, I’m sorry to say) and the other was a freebie. I only made it a few pages. It was someone I networked with on twitter and has since disappeared so I can release the guilt. The typos and bad writing was more than I could take. I felt so bad. The other one was just boooorrrring. I’m always afraid people will think that of mine. But then there is always someone, right? You can’t please them all.

  17. I’ll stop reading if I just don’t really care about the characters or the conflict. I’ll try to hang in there, but after 50, or somtimes 75 pages, if I’m not attached to the characters, and their situation seems stupid, it’s time to move on!

  18. Debra – good for you for sticking it out! I’m sure it would have paid off for me a few times if I had – maybe with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (stopped reading that one somewhere between pages 50 and 100). I’m sure there are people who have or will think my books are boring! The only reason they haven’t left nasty reviews for my book is they just haven’t found it yet. 😀

    Maria, that’s pretty much what happened here – I just wasn’t drawn in to the characters enough to keep reading. Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Jen, you guessed it right! It was “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” I’m sorry, but the first 100 pages break every rule in the writing books. Tons of clumsy exposition, no characterization, no body language, forced dialogue, no stakes… But when we learn more about Lisbeth, it becomes really good. So weird.

  20. I don’t like giving up on a book, but it happens. usually it’s because there’s no emotional component. If there’s the tiniest bit of curiosity for how the plot will wrap up I will end up skimming and then just read the end.

  21. LOL Fabio! My mom said exactly the same thing – so many people told her it gets better, but she just couldn’t stick with it. She also kept tripping up on the unpronounceable (to her) Scandinavian names. I might go see the movie, though!

    Coleen, so true! I was curious about this book, but not enough to stick with it. It hadn’t occurred to me to skim forward, but Elizabeth told me how it ends and it’s quite a twist – probably a good one, if I’d gotten invested in the characters. Thanks for sharing!

  22. CC – your comment got stuck in spam – sorry! I don’t see how you stuck with the book you’re describing! Sometimes, potential just isn’t enough for me, but that was the only thing that kept me going through Outlander. Thanks for sharing!

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