A few months ago I shared some comments I’d seen about what puts readers off a book. There were the sort of things you might imagine: it’s boring, the characters are unreal, there are too many errors (of all sorts) there’s racist/sexist/homophobic/profane etc attitudes, and there were the more unusual and idiosyncratic – when I get a song stuck in my head I’m done for., Southern cultural references, seeing the author’s picture…
It was interesting to see how many things I agreed with as a reader, and I became aware of how many things I might do as a writer which might put people off reading my own books. It’s very difficult to be objective about one’s own work, it’s so familiar, the ‘voice’ is often one’s own and not the narrator’s – whoever that might be, a strange style can creep in which is unnoticed by the writer but an irritation to the reader., a favoured character is just a bore…
If I had to say one thing which makes me stop reading a book – apart from what might be expected – and I can put up with a lot, it’s losing faith in it. That can be because of the poor writing, indifferent characters, boredom – the expected reasons, or I can feel the author isn’t engaged with the reader; some writers have a sort of arrogance, writing in a complicated way and seeming to sneer at anyone who isn’t intellectual enough to follow them (I’m sure it’s not always intended, but that’s how a book sometimes reads) Maybe it could be the other side of the same coin, writers disrespect their readers by writing in a slapdash way – any old thing will do because their loyal fans will buy their garbage whatever… That maybe a little strong, but some writers – even the most respected, do seem very arrogant.
Thinking about the question of what makes me and other readers stop reading, I became aware that it could be looked at from the other side – and maybe as a writer I should be trying to look at my work with these reasons in mind. What should a writer be aware of in order not to have the readers hurling their book out of the window? I read through the comments in answer to the question again – about 150 of them, and I began to realise I could use them as a check-list.
This will need a little thinking about… but when I’ve done it I will share it here.
In the meantime, here is a link to my books, and I would be most grateful if you’d tell me – (in a constructive way!) if I write in a way which is annoying or irritating… Obviously I shall be highly delighted and flattered if all is well!
Here is a link to my books: