ROW80 and What Makes You Stop Reading A Book?

Zounds! It's another ROW80 check in!

Rather slow going this week. I edited a short story I'd written over ten years ago, found it was a lot less lyrical and lovely than I'd imagined all these years, and then I played card toss with five scenes in Rome, Rhymes and Risk - I tossed the scenes in the air and hoped they would land in the right order. I think they might have done, but the entire chapter that follows is a wash.

It's time I chased one of the characters up a tree and brandished a stick at him - or her. Failing that, I'm considering a near-drowning. Especially as I've just found out (thank you Neil Gaiman!) that an old sailors' cure for near-drowning in cold water is a hot bath. Writing a romance after all...

Which brings me to Kristen Callihan's Ember, a short story set before the time of Firelight (coming next month!). Read an excerpt of Ember on Kristen's blog!

Seeing as how I got discouraged by my own writing, now's a good time to answer Heather's question from my Books Read in 2011 post:

"I'm interested in what makes you stop reading.
I can only think of a few books that I stopped reading in the past few years, and both were highly acclaimed favorites of a few good writers I know.
It's really so subjective!! :)"

It is subjective! I've had a few books I've stopped reading - either the writing was bad (and this in a hugely popular, bestselling romance author!) that I couldn't slog through and had to skim; or the writing was good but the story never latched hold, such as with Dorothy Dunnett's Niccolo Rising. She's a very detailed, very well-researched author, but the story just hasn't struck a chord with me; overall, it's just a little too omniscient for my taste.

On the other hand, I expect I'll return to Dunnett someday. The same reaction took place, after all, with Orhan Pamuk's My Name Is Red, and I not only returned to it a couple of weeks ago, after a gap of some years, but devoured it within a week.

On the third hand, there are some books I return to simply to see if my initial reaction of this sucks! was accurate, or whether I missed something the first time around. I remember doing this with Shane by Jack Schaefer. And yes, it was just as awful the second time. If I have to hear about that tree stump ever again, I'll...

Well. I'll do something. What books have you stopped reading?

Meanwhile, here are two sets of Royal Mail stamps I want, one new, one old:

Roald Dahl (illustrations by Quentin Blake):

(image taken from The Guardian)

J. R. R. Tolkien:

(image taken off Ebay)


J.L. Murphey said…
I stop reading...

When an author intrudes such as, "little did he know..." It irritates me to no end.

When there are so many errors in grammar and spelling that I can't make heads or tails out of the text.

When the story doesn't grab me or make me question...what will happen next.

I read through Kristen's Ember and love it so far. Wheeee!
I stop reading when the formatting of the book becomes bad (like the publisher or writer didn't buy their own book on the nook and give it a flip through to see if everything was in order). I also stop reading if the plot is missing or if I can't keep track of what's going on after a while and the whole thing seems like a disorganized mess.
alberta ross said…
I think poss. I have only stopped reading once started maybe two or three times - maybe I have been lucky - I certainly don't necesarily enjoy every book but I always feel guilty if I don't finish it and who knows ait might perk up

Love all the Dunnet books oh to be able to write like that - and the stamps remindnng me I'd like to be able to write like Tolkein also:)

all the best for coming week - don't be too nasty with the stick!
Nadja Notariani said…
Once in awhile I stop reading, but not often. Grammar errors can be troublesome; however, what turns me off are flat, undeveloped characters. I want more than 'I've had a rough life so I don't trust anyone' as a developed character. I crave more than 'he/she is great looking and I'm attracted, therefore I must necessarily fall in love'. I like to read not only the action that the hero or heroine takes, but the motivation - the why of their decision.
Jillybean said…
I stop reading when I lose confidence in the author or the story. This is really vague, I know (so are the exact things that make me stop [g]). It could be bad writing (which impedes my reading), it could be unbelievable characters or unbelievable events, it could be as simple as too little action or too much shallow characterization.

When I read a book, I also feel like I'm reading the author, too (not personally, but in terms of skill). I want to see the author's versatility. It's on display, whether the author thinks so or not. An author that shows me he/she has good control over the writing, the story, and the characters will carry me through even if it's a genre I don't like.

Control is as much knowing when to hold back (do _not_ let that character admire herself in the mirror!) as it is knowing when to let the character take over (moments of strong emotion, for instance, where his actions will permanently affect the plot; you need to look hard to find out what he would really do, and then bloody let him do it! Then let him deal with the consequences. etc)

Sometimes I will just up and stop reading in the middle of a chapter if it's not interesting enough. It's usually due to something that lost my interest a while back and nothing after that stepped up to reclaim it.

Wow, that was a mouthful, wasn't it? [g]
Sarah McCabe said…
There are many reasons I'll stop reading a book. The biggest reason though is not being able to sympathize with the characters. I've stopped reading many books because I just couldn't care less about what happens to anyone in it.
S.P. Bowers said…
It takes a good bit for me to stop reading because I feel guilty, as if I'm hurting someone.

I agree with Jill about stopping if I loose confidence in the author. If there are so many inaccuracies or manipulations (stretching truth etc) to make the plot work.

Mostly I stop if I keep forgetting about it, or if it becomes a chore to read it. (like if I'd rather clean the bathroom than read it)

Question, did you read Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles? The author suggests you read those first, and while they take place in a time after Niccolo Rising they were written first.
Gina Blechman said…
I tend to stop reading when the writing is bad, when the story is so detailed with the minor events that nothing ever really seems to happen, or when the events are so overblown and cliche that I can't take the novel seriously anymore. I try to hold on as long as I can though, because sometimes the books that I really disliked in the beginning greatly improve in the middle and blow me away by the end.

<3 Gina Blechman
Anonymous said…
A warm bath to cure that could be fun ;)

Best of luck with the upcoming week!
Mary Mary said…
It takes a pretty dull storyline to get me to stop. And most romance is so predictable that I lose interest quickly. I almost never reread a book, but the lousy ones I have tried in the past just never captured my attention even the second time around.
Trisha said…
I generally keep reading until I'm done, whether or not I am enjoying the book. I can't stand the idea of not knowing how a story ends once I've begun. There have been novels that I've stopped reading, but they're still on my bookshelf ready to return to at some point. hehe
When a book moves too slowly or when I completely disagree with all of the protagonist's decisions, that makes it really difficult for me to finish the book. Sometimes I'll do that thing that Emma did in the movie Alex and Emma; I'll peek at the ending and see if it's something I like. I peeked at the ending of a book that I started reading recently, and it was totally anticlimactic; the protagonist had spent the entire book obsessing over the antagonist, but there was no final confrontation, only a passing reference to what happened to the antagonist. It was so disappointing after what appeared to be a couple hundred pages of build-up that I figured it wasn't worth it to read the rest of the book. I actually returned the book to the store, which I almost never do.
Deniz Bevan said…
I'm with you all the way on the grammar, Jo.

That sounds awful, Michael - it's been ages since I read a messy-plot novel.

Thanks, alberta - I'm always too kind to my characters! Gotta throw them into trouble more often.

Good point, Nadja - it's nice to have well-developed motivation, so the reader can empathise with the characters' choices.

I know, it's hard to define, Jill and Sarah, but you're both right - I want to read an author that has a voice of authority.

I haven't read the Lymond chronicles, Sara - guess I'll add that to the wishlist. I don't *not* like Dunnett, exactly, cos she's such a good writer, I just couldn't connect to any of the characters...

I try to hold out, too, Gina. I want to have faith in authors!

Thanks, raelyn! I should stop overthinking it and just write the scene...

That's why I end up skimming, Trisha - I used to force myself to slog through but I can't do it anymore.

Ooh, I try hard not to slip to the end, Neurotic. I will skim to get there if the book is really bad, though :-)
Deniz Bevan said…
That's why I love Joanna Bourne, Mary. Very well written and *not* predictable romance.
Romance Reader said…
Hi Deniz,

Some stories and the writing styles are such that even if the plot is intriguing, I stop reading. Mainly if there is lot of narrative and very less dialogue or action.

All the best!
Deniz Bevan said…
That's true too - it depends on whether I'm in the mood for just fun (like the Stephanie Plum books!) or something more literary/make you think.
Misha Gericke said…
I'm almost never willing to put a book down. It's a sad compulsion that I have.

Still, one thing that keeps my reading temper short: when best-sellers and famous writers do things that annoy me.

I can understand it when it's a debut author. But when we get to the 20th book, I'm pretty sure the author got published for his/her name rather than the quality of their writing. And damn-it, that publishing slot could have gone to someone more deserving.
Lynda R Young said…
I'll often stop reading a book because I have so many books I want to read that I won't waste my time on a book I'm not enjoying. The problem is, I can't remember their titles. I only remember the ones I loved.
Missed Periods said…
There are a couple of books I started last year and never finished. The thing is that both of them were written well; I guess the stories just didn't grab me.
Talli Roland said…
It's very rare I stop reading a novel, but if there are a zillion plus characters introduced in the first chapter... chances are I won't make it through.
Nas Dean said…
Hi Deniz,

I'm with Talli...I also don't like too many characters and all their different stories clashing...
Deniz Bevan said…
I agree, Misha! I try hard not to put a book down. But sometimes...

I have a terrible memory, Lynda. I love keeping my book list going on the blog!

Usually if that happens, Missed, I keep the book around, hoping I'll return to it someday...

That's true Talli and Nas. Unless it's done really well - like Stephen King. I'm rereading It, and wow, he has a pile of characters but they're all so well drawn and so distinct that you empathise with them all right away.

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