Why I Quit Reading Your Book

Food for thought for writers: A very constructive critique of writing style! Thank you Virginia!

Just Can't Help Writing

Sad Editing!I just abandoned another indie book.

It always breaks my heart to do this (fortunately, I’ve only done it a very few times). The act sets me to thinking: Was I just being a persnickety grouch, or do I have legitimate things to say about what makes a book work? This question is particularly cogent when I bought this book—two by this author, in fact—on the strength of a glowing review.

Obviously, my reaction isn’t the only one that matters. So is there anything of worth in trying to lay out what went wrong for me?

Writer with questions

I think so. After all, I’ve raised the question of whether we really serve each other if we don’t at least try to explain why a particular element of a book led not to a mild critique but to abandonment, even if we can do so only in generic terms lest we embarrass a…

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13 thoughts on “Why I Quit Reading Your Book

  1. I can’t fully agree with everything she writes – I am an avid Pratchett fan and his first two books I really struggled with and the last couple simply irritated the life out of me and I did not finish either Unseen Academicals or Raising Steam. Yet, The Truth and Going Postal are my two favorite books or everything I have ever read. So, go figure?
    Imagine if Raising Steam was the first Pratchett book I had begun to read, I might never have read anything else!

    I imagine every writer has their highs and lows, and probably there are authors who look at some of their published work and wish they could rewrite or ”unpublish”.

    If umpteen million people buy 50 shades of Grey and yet I have yet to find a positive review does this make me a neanderthal for not liking or even bothering to read the book? Or is the average reader simply a moron looking for a cheap thrill?

    There are people who thoroughly enjoy my writing but I am under no illusions that others thought Almost Dead, for example, was not their cup of tea at all. And I am probably being kind to myself here!

    This is why I would struggle how to honestly review a book other to convey my own personal feelings and if this were the criteria to the success of that book then Harry Splotter would have been consigned to the waste basket after the first couple of chapters.

    I have particular views on book reviews and reviewers. Some people love them others are not so warm-hearted.

    • 🙂 Thanks for the comment, Ark! Yes I agree, there are one or two TP’s that sort-of fall out of his frame.. “The Last Continent” was not so hot though I love the concept of Rincewind. My daughter assures me that the HP series gets better as it progresses. As for Tory Hayden, I must have picked up her most controversial book, because apparently it is the only one that really is heaped with warnings etc. “50 Shades”? Oh, it gets positive reviews – word-of-mouth, in whispers. Someone told me, “it’s the best book a woman can do to herself”. I have to say, I didn’t read it either, so I can’t judge.

    • I do understand what she is saying about the voice, though. It’s probably the difference between someone who can write and a good writer.
      Brian Aldiss has it in bucket loads – I believe, and is a genius. I would metaphorically kill to write with his style of voice. And yet a writer in a similar epic style genre, someone like Greg bear, not so much.
      That said each writer has their fans who would probably defend their Champion vociferously.
      I should be so lucky to be part of such a discussion!

      Re: 50 shades.
      Celeste watched the movie the other night. I kid you not! It was on the telly, she says.
      I was unaware; watching the first series of Lie to me with Tim Roth on the laptop.
      She couldn’t understand what the fuss was about and said the ending was awful.
      She certainly didn’t show any inclination to be tied up when we went to bed,or suggest I go fetch one of the bamboo canes that have been supporting my tomatoes.

      And to end on a literary note: Have you got an update for me on the progress of PI? (Cover, contract etc…)

  2. There were a couple of books I put down – Lorna Doone and Tristram Shandy – but I did go back and start them again, and finish them. Otherwise there are very few I don’t finish.

    Where the original poster says ‘voice’ is the critical factor, for me I would say it’s the ability/inability to write well. Someone can tell a good story, have an error-free book, but if the writing is flat and unengaging, it’s a struggle to keep going through the slow, turgid parts (eg Doone and Shandy). I know that can overlap with voice, but sometimes books read no better than a 14-year-old’s school essay. No insult to 14-year-olds there, I just want something different in a work of fiction.

    • Yes. I think she takes it from a specific angle. There are various things that can break a book for me but the worst is if nothing keeps happening. The second worst is if the writing is flat – no depth. I don’t finish books out of a sense of duty – I stopped doing that when I found myself with little children, because the time is precious. But I know a number of people who finish a book once they’ve started it, whether they really enjoy it or not. I admire their dedication.

    • I agree with you entirely. When the writing is lively and surprising, a book can become seductive despite many flaws. Interesting examples! I read Tristram Shandy many years ago and found it quite difficult but definitely different. I have always enjoyed the Victorians (Dickens, the Brontes, George Elliot, Wilkie Collins) despite the way they sometimes made me work. I expect a very different voice in older works than in current ones, although sometimes I enjoy writers who deliberately replicate older styles to serve their stories. It’s fun to try to figure out exactly what makes the difference between a lively style and one that falls flat–and then try to take the lessons to heart.

    • I’ve got all of your examples in my library. I consumed Victorians at one point. In terms of replication, I would rather suggest, preferable to a straight take-off, that a modern author like García Márquez or Rushdie, for example, are the new Victorians. Or as gipsika mentioned earlier, Kafka on the Shore is a classic. I think these are our new parameters for classics.

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