Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Did not finish ...

Yesterday, Dorte over at DJ Krimiblog put up a post about reasons for not finishing a book. I gave up with the blogger comment box after a few goes and decided that I'd do my own post, dovetailing with hers. I should start by saying that it is relatively rare that I do not finish a book. If I've parted with cash, 19 times out of 20 I'll read my investment (I was amazed that one commenter on Dorte's post said they do not finish 75% of the books they start). That's partly to do with buying policy (and I buy 95%+ all the books I read). I usually buy my books in shops and not online, so I can browse, or if I do buy online it is either an author I know and like, or I've read a review by a trusted reviewer (usually one that feeds into the Crime and Mystery Friendfeed). That stops a lot of books I'd struggle with entering the house. That's not to say that I don't sometimes pick a book off the shelf, read a page or so and put it back, but what's going on here is deciding whether I'm in the mood for that kind of book, rather than making a final judgement. On the relatively rare occasion that I abandon a book it is for the following reasons:

  • Weak plot, often deriative with no distinctive voice; a formulaic approach; no compelling hook
  • Poor character development, with stock characters, caricatures and stereotypes (I don't mind this in certain kinds of novels, such as comic noir, but not in anything rooted in any kind of realism).
  • Characters I don't believe in or care about to some degree (even if I don't like them, I need to be able to be interested in them)
  • Too much tell and not enough show; over-description or labouring points
  • Bad dialogue with characters that speak in formal English, with no slang, interuptions, tail-offs, and all use the same voice, etc
  • Lack of credibility and realism in what purports to be realistic fiction (again I don't mind if the story is not seeking realism as with fantasy; though in fantasy there has to be consistency and the plot has to fit within the rules of that world)
  • A writing style that is all style and no substance - nice prose is good, great story is better
  • Too much sermonising and/or pretentiousness
  • Continuity errors, basic historical or factual errors, weak editing
  • Knowing that if I stop I won't care that I don't know how it ends (and I like to know how things end)

6 comments:

Dorte H said...

I am sorry Blogger didn´t welcome your comment, but glad you picked up the discussion.

When I have paid for a book, I very rarely give it up. That is *not* because I feel I ought to finish or it will be a waste of money, but rather because I don´t waste money on books until I am fairly sure I´ll like them. ;D

So a large proportion of those I don´t finish are library books or cheap/free ebooks where I am willing to take a risk. And I don´t see myself as a reader who is difficult to please, but when I have picked up a book three times and still wish I was somewhere else, it is just not good enough.

Kerrie said...

I finish 99% of books that I begin and I think that is a sign that they have already been through some sort of filtering process before I even start them, so completion is assured.
The exceptions are those where I just don't like the author's tone, or there is some aspect that I missed in my pre-selection process

Uriah Robinson said...

Rob,thanks for this definitive list.
Number 7 is definitely a problem with some authors who can write 500 pages with very little happening, but it reads beautifully.

Rob Kitchin said...

I should have said also that rarely will one of these stop me reading - it's usually a combination. One of the reasons I'm not so keen on reviewing books blind is that there's a chance it'll end up a DNF because there was no pre-selection process.

CarolNWong said...

Since I don't have a blog most of my books are books that I have won. I just buy a few that I really, really want and didn't win. One book that I gave up on was written entirely in the third person and none of the story was interesting. I stuck it out for 30 pages and then gave up. The other one kept piling on characters after characters. I was 50 pages into it and wondered how I could connect 30
of them together.

I rarely give up, I think my percentage of fininshing the books is about 95%.


CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

kathy d. said...

I tried very hard to finish books. But sometimes it's impossible.

One thing I cannot stand is boring books or books that are written like fifth grade reading assignments, with subject, verb, object--and nothing is interesting. Not only does a reader not care less what happens, but nothing is happening.

Everything is flat--plot, characters, etc.

There are no concepts to grapple with, nothing to think about.

Or where the writing is aimed at a low reading level, where there is nothing of note.

I try to give books 50 pages, but with a few, I've stopped at 5 and just cannot read one more page. Or I've skimmed and still can't find one well-written or interesting page, so I give up and return books to the library.

I only buy books if I've read good reviews by trusted readers/bloggers/writers, and if the book appeals to me. Or if the book is in a series I like a lot.

Banal books are awful; I just have no patience, have to think and be challenged.