Five reasons I might not finish your book.

My kids are out of school in about two weeks, so I’ve really been pushing to get this rewrite done before I take a break from it. But last night my brain was burned out so I picked up a book I started a few days ago.

I stopped reading after six chapters.

Closed the book.

And decided not to finish it.

1. The first chapter was the best.

It had great emotion that made me care about the character. And then the initial conflict dissolved and the emotion evaporated in the next few chapters.

Don’t let this happen to you.

2. Lack of connection to the protagonist.

The story was told in first person and the voice was pretty good. But the internal conflict did not grab me on a personal level. The character would comment on the situation and other people but did not go deeper and make herself vulnerable.

Don’t let this happen to you.

3. Too many characters introduced at once with no connection to any of them.

Just like when we meet a large crowd at a party, it’s hard to remember them. But, if we have a real conversation with one person, we’ll remember them. As a reader we crave that connection. Too many characters with just physical description do not create that bond.

Don’t let this happen to you.

4. Well-worn paranormal plot with a lack luster twist.

An overdone plot really needs a huge twist that makes the reader think this story will be different than all the other ones out there like it that are written better. Without it…well, we all know what happens.

Don’t let this happen to you.

5. Writing that is just okay.

Let’s face it. We all recognize great writing. And when we read a book that combines great writing with a great story, we want to sleep with the book under our pillow and prop it up next to our computer. I think this is where practice and polish comes into play. And some natural talent.

Don’t let this happen to you.

You tell me. What are some reasons you’ve stopped reading?


59 Responses to Five reasons I might not finish your book.

  1. mooderino June 1, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Boredom. Soetiems I’ll fight through to see if things pickup, especially if it’s a classic book, but generally life’s too short

  2. Andrea June 1, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    Mostly shallow characters, that are really just cliches. Or writing with lots of cliches. Stories that don’t pull me into another place or time, so that I’m still hyper-aware that I’m reading words.

  3. Matthew MacNish June 1, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    I may have to work on number 3. I do have an ensemble cast.

    But I love that you point out that a great opening isn’t everything. If it’s too powerful, and leaves you no room to continue ramping up the tension, you just might be shooting yourself in the foot, so to speak.

  4. India Drummond June 1, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    Supposedly smart characters that do stupid things. That drives me mental. I don’t even keep real-life *friends* that are constantly making bad choices, so why would I enjoy a fictional character that does the same?

    About your #5, I completely agree… I just wish it was easier for me, as an author, to tell when a piece of my own writing lacks zing. Would make my life (and my editor’s) much simpler!

  5. Samantha Verant June 1, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Ugh. I must be a masochist, because I don’t put books down. I finish them. Until the bitter end. Same thing with movies.

  6. Laura Josephsen June 1, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    Lack of connection is a big one for me. I try to give books a solid chance–I’ll read a lot of chapters, but if it goes on and on and I really don’t care about the characters, I’ll likely stop reading.

  7. Heather Sunseri June 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    I have to connect with the characters and the first couple of chapters have to grab me. There’s just so many books in my TBR pile that I will move on if I’m not hooked.

  8. Kristin Gray June 1, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Taking too long to get to the character’s story-worthy problem. Thus, making me care.

  9. anne gallagher June 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Sloppy editing. I read a book last week and the story was pretty good. The characters were believable and the situations they got into were more or less okay. The thing that really got me was the editing. It was horrible. I mean, this book should NOT have been published. Even I, as an unpublished author, cringed as I turned the pages. I won’t even let my beta readers read something that isn’t spit shined and polished and this book had NONE.

  10. Laura Marcella June 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    I agree with all of these especially #2.

    I can get passed not-so-good writing if the story is compelling…but it has to be a really really super interesting story. But I won’t let that happen to me!

    • Laura June 1, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

      Thanks everyone! I love finding a book where the words disappear and I’m right there in the story. But it is a hard thing to do. I’m constantly working on all the things I talk about on this blog. Especially the not-to-dos!

  11. Stina Lindenblatt June 1, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Nothing happens or it just seems overly done. Not a fresh as I had hoped from the description. And I couldn’t careless about the main character.

  12. Jessica Bell June 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    I always give a book about 50 pages. If I don’t want to know what happens by then, I stop. Or not even what happens, but a simple desire to get to know the characters better. If I don’t feel that. I put it down.

  13. Traci Kenworth June 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    Same reasons as above.

  14. Creepy Query Girl June 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    Logic and coherency is a big thing for me when reading YA. If I’m not following/agreeing/ understanding the motivation behind the MC’s actions or the plot itself, I’m out. I need things to make logical sense and have a natural-feeling sequence of events.

    • Laura June 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

      Logic and motivation is a huge reason. And some of that was missing already in the first 6 chapters. But in this case, that wasn’t the biggest offender.

  15. Sara McClung June 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    You know, it’s very very rare for me not to finish a book. And same thing with movies. I think the ONLY thing that is a guarantee for me to walk away is when a a dog or a cat or any animal, really, dies. Which, I know, is probably weird. But those are the things that really get me. Otherwise, I’m a stickler and tend to stay with stories even when they drag on…

    My biggest pet PEEVE though is in paranormal, when weird things happen to a character (to hint to a reader that something strange is going on) but the character doesn’t react at all to the the odd things. I mean, I don’t mind if they brush them off–as long as the thought process is shown. But when (this is just a random thing, nothing I’ve read) when the MC wakes up randomly floating above their bed one morning, and then goes to brush their teeth like nothing happened? I lose all suspension of disbelief because the truth of the moment has just flown right out the window… IF that makes any sense, lol.

  16. Laurel June 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    I’ve put down more and more books in recent years, mostly when I think I can’t learn anything from the writer–how s/he handled something well or badly.

    The book I’m most likely to put down is just too average, with ho-hum characters and ho-hum plots. Not “bad” stories, but ones that aren’t really challenging my thinking or demonstrating well (or badly) some aspect of craft.

  17. Sarah June 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    I guess I don’t like it when characters are snarky for no reason, when dialogue or writing feels forced, when I feel like I’m getting a lot of infodump, the usual stuff. I really like your analysis–it’s so hard to do on my own work, though! That’s why I depend on my betas!

  18. Kelly Polark June 1, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    I cannot cannot finish a book. I HAVE to finish it. Though ones I am half interested in, I do skim instead of read.
    Excellent points of why some will stop reading!! You always have such informative posts, Laura!

  19. Jessica R. Patch June 1, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    I just read part of a book that for the first 20 pages was nothing but confusing inner dialogue. Yes, I read the first 20 pages because I had to know when this guy was going to actually speak to someone. Then I put it down.

    I don’t care for books that start out describing everything under the sun and the sun. I like to jump into the fun dialogue and plot pretty quick.

  20. Karen Strong June 1, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Wow, our neighborhood kids got out last Friday and are already wrecking havoc in the place. 🙂

    Lack of connection is a big one for me. If I can’t empathize or connect with the main character, I lose interest really quick.

    This is a good checklist.

  21. Karen Strong June 1, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Wow, our neighborhood kids got out last Friday and are already wrecking havoc in the place. 🙂

    Lack of connection is a big one for me. If I can’t empathize or connect with the main character, I lose interest really quick.

    • Laura June 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

      Great reasons! I try and finish most books b/c some get better. But I could just tell from the cliche characters and writing that this wasn’t going to get better, even if the idea and plot were terrific.

  22. Jill Kemerer June 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    I no longer feel the need to be a hero and finish every book I pick up. It’s all about the character for me. If the MC grabs me, I’ll hang on for a mediocre ride!

  23. Tana Adams June 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    I’m the toughest critic when it comes to reading books for pleasure. The books I really enjoy are far and few between. And BTW I started Divergent! The first chapter did not suck me in, but I am in it for the long haul. I thought I read a review where it said the ending will make me cry. Are those happy tears Laura???? 😉

  24. LynNerd June 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    I usually read many chapters before giving up on a book, but one book had too many made-up, hard-to-read words in the first chapter. It was confusing and hard to follow and just plain annoying, so I gave up.

    Enjoy the summer fun with the kids!

  25. Angela Ackerman June 1, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    GREAT list to keep in mind for hooking the reader.

    The most recent book I’ve put down is because the POV was shared between 2 protags, but the protags are in every way the same. The book is in OMNI to boot, so it adds to the noticeable fact that the similarity of the protags and feels like one big head-hop. The characters are twins, so I think the author was hoping to make that a ‘pull’ for readers, but it doesn’t work. It’s a pair of characters that should be downsized to a single character, and the OMNI is so bad it should have been 3rd to work.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  26. Kara Lennox June 1, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    Sometimes when I’m thrust into a world that is just too bizarre, with a lot of made-up words and references to stuff I don’t get, I get exhausted trying to figure it all out and I just give up.

  27. Susan Sipal June 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    One thought occurred to me while reading your post — it’s all about being intimate, isn’t it? Well, intimate and urgent. We have to somehow achieve intimacy between our readers and our characters, and a sense of urgency in both that something must and is being done to change.

    I especially like your point about too large a cast because I’m working with that currently and need to make sure I handle it well.

  28. Julie Musil June 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    Wow. When I experience this same situation, I’m amazed that the book was published, and that those speed bumps weren’t addressed in the editing stage.

  29. Tamson June 1, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    I have to cite #3 and #5 as two of the most common reasons that I stop reading. A little addendum to #5 that is really, really common is that the setting is completely neglected! I want to feel almost as connected to the place where the characters reside as I do to the characters themselves. Deborah Halverson does a good job of helping writers address this issue here:

  30. Lisa Green June 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    Dur. Forgot to leave a comment!! LOL. Fab post. But now I’m all nervous about my work… 😀 I wouldn’t want you putting it down!!

  31. Barbara Watson June 1, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    If I don’t (or cannot) see myself somewhere in the story, I put it down. Personal involvement, whether through a character, the setting, or the conflict is a must for me.

    Thank you for this post. I’m adding it to my ‘return to’ list.

  32. Anne-Mhairi Simpson June 1, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    The last book I had real trouble finishing was fine, albeit not stellar, up to the 3/4 mark, and then all the characters bar one suddenly started acting completely out of character. In the end, the plot twist was wasted on me because I was so frustrated. There were also a couple of loose ends which really annoyed me. I did finish the book but I really had to MAKE myself pick it up through the last 100 pages or so.

  33. Vivien Weaver June 1, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    My pet peeves can be summed up in one statement: it matters how the writer presents the text and what the author expects from me as a reader. If the narrator is bitchy/cruel/TSTL or I can’t connect with him/her, if the story lacks accurate research, if the editing is poor, if the plot is boring/janky, it all speaks to me of an author’s lack of awareness of his/her audience. I can put up with a lot from a book if I know I’m SUPPOSED to put up with it in hopes of seeing some change, but if I feel like the author is unaware that his/her protagonist is a jerk or if I feel like I’m still expected to like the protagonist, for example, that bothers me.

  34. Patti Mallett June 1, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    Short, simple, right to the point! Another ZINGER, Laura. Thanks!!

    Yesterday I started a new book and the first line was Perfectly Perfect. Hope rose in my chest…and it HAS NOT LET ME DOWN YET!!! Please, O, please, don’t disappoint me, I keep whispering as I read on. (I so want this book to be a Master-Class in holding the reader’s attention.) Of, course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in my eyes, this one’s Looking Good!!!

  35. Donna K. Weaver June 1, 2011 at 6:29 pm #


  36. Margo Berendsen June 1, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    Yup, those are my reasons too. I did just manage to finish a book that had so-so-writing and some other issues (a plot that started strong, and then dissolved into confusion and loss of direction – frustrating!) it was the strong connection to the protagonist that was the one saving grace that kept me going. I was so emotionally invested, I had to keep going.

  37. Meagan Spooner June 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    For me? Biggest one is bad writing. I usually value story and characters over writing style but sometimes it’s so bad I can’t deal with it. Purple prose, unclear phrases, inconsistent dialogue, wishy washy word choice… augh!

    Usually, though, it takes a confluence of badness to make me stop reading. I -want- to keep reading… so usually it takes several things going wrong to make me stop. If it’s just that I don’t like the protagonist, sometimes the plot is good enough to carry me through. Or if I think the story is a little slow, the world is just so neat that I want to find out more about it.

  38. Stacy June 1, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    Jumping from one pov to another within a scene – I stopped reading a big time author because of this.

    Cliched plots and characters, especially weak damsels in distress. Poor editing, overused plots (the paranormal genre is definitely guilty of this).

    I also have to connect with the main character pretty quickly. If I can’t empathize or feel sucked into their life, I get bored.

  39. Sheena June 1, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    I find that I have less and less patience for reading fiction that doesn’t rock my world. I struggle to finish books that lack clear, concise language and a strong, sympathetic narrative voice. Cliched protagonists and shallow POV switching narratives distract me and I tend to lose that all-important connection and with it my will to keep reading. Perhaps because I’m female, I’m particularly hard on authors with rigid, flat female characters that operate more as plot devices than people.

  40. Lydia K June 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    I have read several books lately that I can barely finish, but they have been relatively new, so I finish them just so I can analyze their plot.

    Poor prose, an MC that doesn’t seem driven to do anything, an unbelievable premise or world are some of the reasons I’ve wanted to stop reading.

  41. Carolina Valdez Miller June 2, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    Ohhh, definitely rules to live by. As I was reading all these, I was mentally sifting through my own books, wondering if I’d done any of these. O_O

  42. erica and christy June 2, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    I don’t have any to add to your (super) list, but I have to tell you I love #3. It really hit home with me. I will remember this while writing. I don’t think I have ever introduced too many characters at once, but I just like the image of a reader walking into a room and having to take in all the detail and dialogue and information while also catching onto a connection with the protagonist. I am TERRIBLE in crowds and TERRIBLE at remembering names and faces. I’ll keep these things in mind. THANKS!! christy

  43. Jennifer Hoffine June 2, 2011 at 2:55 am #

    Great post! We do learn so much from books we want to stop reading. I stopped listening to a book recently because it was so syrup-py sweet I thought honey might be dripping off each CD as I pulled it out. The love interest was (I assume) what the writer thought was gentlemanly, but he came off unrealistic and even condescending to the protag…I suppose all this says more about my tastes than anything else, but I can’t stand stuff that is so “nice” it comes off as shallow and trite.

  44. Dawn Simon June 2, 2011 at 4:01 am #

    Great points! I think it’s so important for us to read like writers, as you’re doing. 🙂

  45. Jo Schaffer June 2, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Those are all reasons for me too.
    I also can’t get into a book if I don’t like the mc.

  46. Karen Lange June 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    This is wonderful advice. I think that this is why it is important for us to be readers AND writers, for it provides that much more insight. I don’t understand the writer who says that they don’t read.

    Thanks for sharing this, Laura! Have a great weekend!

  47. Kris June 2, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    OMG, 49 comments and 18 retweets. Man O’ Man. I often don’t finish books, and sometimes I can’t put my finger on why. If I love it, I’ll cruise through it in two days. If not, it sits for weeks. I hate lots of characters–or nicknames–that make me feel stupid as I’m reading. As in “who the heck is that?” I hate to have to page backwards to figure out a connection.

    Great post, as always, Laura!

  48. Daisy Harris June 2, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    I agreed with all your points. I tend to finish books if I can get into the first few chapters, but too many characters in the first few pages throws me every time. I HATE that! I wanna at least get to know someone for a few paragraphs before someone else shows up.

    I also hate too many adverbs, adjectives. Overused tropes with no reason or depth behind them. And yeah, when the conflict is resolved too early. I read one book that seemed so promising, but by the end of the second chapter, I didn’t see why I needed to keep reading.

    Great post, and thought-provoking topic!


  49. J. Thomas Ross June 3, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    I enjoyed reading your list of reasons for not finishing a book. I used to force myself to finish every book, but now I know that there are too many great books out there that I’ll never have time to read, so I no longer waste time forcing myself to finish a book. I have put books aside because they have too many errors for the English teacher in me to stomach, have too many logic errors in the plot, or don’t have fully developed characters that I care about. I once set aside a well-written book with interesting, complex characters when the female protagonist did something totally contrary to her well-drawn character. It felt like the author had made the woman do what the author wanted her to do, but it was so untrue to the character established that I couldn’t read more.

    • Laura June 3, 2011 at 3:07 am #

      Thanks everyone! I had no idea this would be so interesting. I think I was taking out my frustration after I put down the book. And processing what I’d learned.

  50. Lynda R Young June 3, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    You listed so many great reasons we put books down. In the last month I’ve stopped reading five books. Time is precious!!

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