Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: We’ve all been there. Sometimes, you pick up a book with great expectation only to find that you just can’t bring yourself to finish it. Whether you’re one chapter in or three-quarters of the way to the end, what types of things make you give up on a book? For extra credit – as a writer, how to you try to eliminate those “crimes” from your own stories?
Jamie Wallace: It has taken me half a lifetime to get over the guilt of abandoning a book that I just can’t seem to finish reading. But, now that I have finally learned to be more discerning about how I spend my reading time, abandoning books that aren’t living up to my expectations has become something of a sport. My knee-jerk response to the question “What makes you abandon a book?” is this: I’m bored. I don’t mean to say that a book needs to be full of non-stop excitement and over-the-top adventure. Far from it. In fact, many of the books I’ve enjoyed recently have been what I call “quiet books” in which nothing (or hardly anything) seems to happen at all. But still, despite the lack of outward activity, something is happening in these stories – something that gets under my skin and keeps me coming back for more, page after page. I will confess that I still give each book I read more than one chance to win me over, hanging on just in case the story gets better. I think the death knell is when I realize that I feel apathetic towards the characters. Once I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t care what happens to them, it’s all over. Good night, Irene.
Lisa J. Jackson: First, I have to chuckle that there is an extra credit question. I haven’t had one of those since my college years! Wow. Flash back! I don’t have an answer for that one other than I try my best to write well every time.
As for what makes me stop reading – editing and grammar issues, hands down. If I see more than 1 blatant issue in a chapter, I’m hard pressed to keep reading. Multiple issues within a few pages and I’m absolutely done – the book (gasp) might even get thrown away. If I can tell an author hasn’t even run a spell check on a book, there is no way I’m giving my time to reading it.
When I was younger, I’d force myself to read a book even if I lost interest in it — it’s been many many moons since I’ve done that, but I certainly know that if I lose interest in a story for any reason, unbelievable characters – characters I can’t get behind – unable to suspend my belief – whatever reason, I will close the book and move on. Thankfully, I’ve only stopped reading a handful of books, so far.
Diane MacKinnon: I read a book not too long ago that had so many errors in it–glaring mistakes where people who were standing up suddenly “stood up,” and people who were out in the rain carrying umbrellas suddenly had arms full of flowers–where did the umbrellas go? that I actually kept reading because I was so fascinated by how bad the writing was. Usually, though, I put down a book, like Jamie and Lisa, if it’s poorly written or if I’m bored and don’t care about the characters. Also, if something happens that’s so implausible I find myself saying, “Come on!” as I toss the book aside. in Gone Girl, I didn’t necessarily like the characters, but I was definitely interested enough to keep reading!
As far as the extra credit question, one of the reasons I kept reading the book with all the mistakes was to try to make sure I didn’t make any of those mistakes! (I’ll probably just make different mistakes!)
Susan Nye: It is exceedingly rare for me to toss a book aside without finishing it. The few books that I just couldn’t bear to finish committed no great crimes. For the most part, they were written for someone else. I seem to remember dumping one because it was too violent. Another was a best seller with teenagers but it’s been a long time since I was sixteen. Still another was dry as dust but well respected by historians.
So, when it comes to dumping a book, I can with all sincerity reassure the author that … it’s not you, it’s me.
Deborah Lee Luskin: I’ve been reading library books on my Kindle, which are on a two-week loan, so if I can’t finish it before it’s due (and disappears) – poof! I don’t finish. Simple as that.