What Makes You Put Down A Book?

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pigfender
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Tue Jul 09, 2013 4:29 pm Post

Goodreads.com, for those that don't know, is a website that let's you log what books you've read, are reading, or would like to. They are book people. I talked a bit about why I joined Goodreads in a post on my website here (basically, it's all Vince Flynn's fault).

Anyway, the people of Goodreads recently ran a survey to try and uncover why people abandon books part way through (and therefore by extrapolation, how to keep people reading to the end). This being the internet, they of course put all that information into a nice infographic(*).

Not much in the way of surprises, but perhaps it serves as a useful reminder to both (a) think about some of these things as we plod through our writing, and (b) not to read 50 Shade of Grey.

* - or what we used to call a 'diagram'.
"Some dice only have sixes." nom, 19 Oct 2013
"Piggy, I'm beginning to wonder if you are the best person to take advice from." Jaysen, 26 Sept 2014

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AmberV
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Tue Jul 09, 2013 8:33 pm Post

Put me in that dogged and masochistic 38.1% group at the bottom. I have stacks of books with the bookmark still in them (or the digital whachamacallit meta-data marker set), and it might take me decades to finish them, but by golly I will. 8)
.:.
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pigfender
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Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:07 pm Post

You should be fine as long as nobody writes any more books.
"Some dice only have sixes." nom, 19 Oct 2013
"Piggy, I'm beginning to wonder if you are the best person to take advice from." Jaysen, 26 Sept 2014

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Briar Kit
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Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:32 pm Post

Too many adjectives.

Too many adverbs.

Too many 'ands'.

Any ampersands, other than in business or product names.

Anything more than minimal use of the first person.
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nom
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Wed Jul 10, 2013 6:33 am Post

Briar Kit wrote:Too many adjectives.

Too many adverbs.

Too many 'ands'.

Any ampersands, other than in business or product names.

Anything more than minimal use of the first person.


I can live with first person (when it's well done), but fully agree that too many adverbs and and adjectives ruin a text. I'd add poorly developed characters to the list: either unbelievable or "un-careable". I was going to say "unlovable" but I don't need to love a character to read a book, in fact sometimes I can't stand character but still like the book. So by "un-careable" I mean that, despite effort, I just can't care what happens. e.g. Joe went walking through Central Park and thought he saw the same pigeon three days in a row*…

I will struggle through poor writing, ridiculous plots, unlikable characters, slow going, immorality and discomfort (to pick a few reasons listed on GoodReads); I've finished too many poorly written, poorly plotted and frankly unbelievable fantasy novels (If he/she/it is so magical and can do <insert wonderment here>, why didn't they just <insert simple solution here>?). But I do need to care about the character and their world even if I don't care for them.


*OK if Joe was a pigeon breeder, and saw a particularly striking bird, that might work. Or it might be interesting if he was delusional and thought the pigeon was spying on him and reporting his movements to Michelle Obama. But, and this is important, for the narrative to work there has to be a reason that matters and I need to care enough to find out why it matters.
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Briar Kit
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Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:02 am Post

Yes, if it is well done...Waugh's Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited, for instance...but invariably the first person sounds clumsy.

And I agree with everything else you say, though may well be guilty of the same sins. :(
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Hu
Hugh
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Wed Jul 10, 2013 10:32 am Post

Boredom, pure boredom, that's all.
Almost anything else I can tolerate.
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
Paris or London or Erie, PA.'

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Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:27 pm Post

Results (at Goodreads, not necessarily here) would have been more interesting had they included a few demographics — gender and over/under 40, for instance. Differences among groups would have interested me more than simple reason percentages.

After trying to come up with a list of specifics, I decided that

Hugh wrote:Boredom, pure boredom, that's all.
Almost anything else I can tolerate.

works for me.

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robertdguthrie
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Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:12 pm Post

When nothing of consequence happens for 200 pages, I usually can't be bothered to pick up the book again, or will stop renewing my checkout with the library and return it. It's especially true when a first book seems like it's all set-up and no pay-off.

Long passages that have no impact on the story being told or the characters passing through it.

Horrendous, passionless dialogue. If every page has me pausing to imagine how I'd rewrite the interaction between two characters, I'll come as close as I ever do to throwing a book across the room.
Often wrong, rarely in doubt.
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Briar Kit
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Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:17 pm Post

robertdguthrie wrote:When nothing of consequence happens for 200 pages, I usually can't be bothered to pick up the book again, or will stop renewing my checkout with the library and return it. It's especially true when a first book seems like it's all set-up and no pay-off.


200 pages…that's a mighty kind chunk of tolerance to give a book. I might be in with a chance if I write a 199-page novel ;)
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robertdguthrie
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Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:27 pm Post

Briar Kit wrote:
robertdguthrie wrote:When nothing of consequence happens for 200 pages, I usually can't be bothered to pick up the book again, or will stop renewing my checkout with the library and return it. It's especially true when a first book seems like it's all set-up and no pay-off.


200 pages…that's a mighty kind chunk of tolerance to give a book. I might be in with a chance if I write a 199-page novel ;)


It was for a book club, in a genre I thought was my favorite kind of brain candy. It turns out that even an award winning novelist whose later work I liked was able to bore and confuse me beyond caring.
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Briar Kit
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Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:41 pm Post

I guess we can't please all of the people all of the time. Being writers, it is often pretty hard to please ourselves.
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robertdguthrie
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Wed Jul 10, 2013 3:28 pm Post

Briar Kit wrote:I guess we can't please all of the people all of the time. Being writers, it is often pretty hard to please ourselves.


:| It's true. The best we can hope to accomplish is to make some people care, starting with ourselves.
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pigfender
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Wed Jul 10, 2013 3:42 pm Post

Briar Kit wrote: please ourselves.


What's THAT like?
Ah... who am I kidding. I crack myself up all the time.

Briar Kit wrote:Anything more than minimal use of the first person.

Pigfender thinks that you might not like his current work then. He has written it pretty much exclusively in the first person... and in the present tense as well. What was he thinking?

PJS wrote:After trying to come up with a list of specifics...

The thing that bothers me the most is where the writing gets in the way of the story. I read books for the stories, which means that the writing has to fall away. Which basically means that the writing has to be very good and very well edited. If I find myself having to re-read sentences in a book that is a warning sign for me. If I have to do it more than a couple of times in the first few pages, well it goes back to the library.
Someone (probably a great many people) once said "Life is too short for bad books". I'd change that slightly: There are too many books out there for bad books. My local library has more books in it than I'll ever be able to read in my lifetime (well, not at the moment it doesn't, as it's underwater), so I really can't afford to spend any time on ones that I'm not going to enjoy.
"Some dice only have sixes." nom, 19 Oct 2013
"Piggy, I'm beginning to wonder if you are the best person to take advice from." Jaysen, 26 Sept 2014

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Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:11 pm Post

I've picked up at least seven of Elmore Leonard's novels, and have yet to put one down without finishing it. Here's why:

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.


A few minor novelists, like Dickens and Faulkner and Joyce, have broken one of two of those rules, but had other strengths to carry them through. Me, I'm stuck trying to follow EL's lead.

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