I did not finish your book

A post at SteveLaube.com (he’s an agent): I Did Not Finish Reading Your Book

There are a lot of reasons for this to happen. Here are a few examples.

–I didn’t care about your characters.
–The plot fizzled.
–The story became ridiculous and unrealistic.
–It was too easy to put down. Or, in other words, it was forgettable.

I won’t say this happens to me that often, because I would say that if I don’t make it past the first ten pages, I wouldn’t really say I truly started reading the book at all. I tried the book. But I didn’t actually begin reading the book. I didn’t commit.

Reasons I stopped before I got ten pages in:

A) I didn’t care about your characters. That part is the same.

B) I was actively repulsed by your characters. I’m thinking of the “Would you turn the page post” here, the one that offered this first page:

And, of course, there was to be a lunch party to mark the new year. A small affair, just family, but Thomas would require all the trimmings. Unthinkable that they would do otherwise: the Turners were big on tradition, and with Nora and Richard visiting from Sydney, neither frippery nor fanfare was to be skipped.

Isabel had decided to set up in a different part of the garden this year. Usually, they sat beneath the walnut tree on the eastern lawn, but today she’d been drawn to the stretch of grass in the shade of Mr. Wentworth’s cedar. She’d walked across it when she was cutting flowers for the table earlier and been struck by the pretty westward view toward the mountains. Yes, she’d said to herself. This will do very well. The arrival of the thought, her own decisiveness, had been intoxicating.

She told herself it was all part of her New Year’s resolution—to approach 1959 with a fresh pair of eyes and expectations—but there was a small internal voice that wondered whether she wasn’t rather tormenting her husband just a little with the sudden breach of protocol. Ever since they’d discovered the sepia photograph of Mr. Wentworth and his similarly bearded Victorian friends arranged in elegant wooden recliners on the eastern lawn, Thomas had been immovable in his conviction that it represented the superior entertaining spot.

Ugh. I have anti-interest in spending time with Isabel and her family.

C) I was actively repulsed by something about your world. This time I’m thinking of She Who Became the Sun.

Zhongli village lay flattened under the sun like a defeated dog that has given up on finding shade. All around there was nothing but the bare yellow earth, cracked into the pattern of a turtle’s shell, and the sere bone smell of hot dust. It was the fourth year of the drought. Knowing the cause of their suffering, the peasants cursed their barbarian emperor in his distant capital in the north. As with any two like things connected by a thread of qi, whereby the actions of one influence the other even at a distance, so an emperor’s worthiness determines the fate of the land he rules. The worthy ruler’s dominion is graced with good harvests; the unworthy’s is cursed by flood, drought, and disease. The present ruler of the empire of the Great Yuan was not only emperor, but Great Khan too: he was tenth of the line of the Mongol conqueror Khubilai Khan, who had defeated the last native dynasty seventy years before. He had held the divine light of the Mandate of Heaven for eleven years, and already there were ten-year-olds who had never known anything but disaster.

Ugh. I have anti-interest in spending time in this world, which is apparently characterized by grinding poverty and disaster.

D) The protagonist or important secondary characters got themselves into a pickle that is too high-tension for me to tolerate right now.

I’m still (still!) not really into high-tension, high-stakes novels. Unless I really trust the author. Maybe not then. This is still (STILL!) limiting the kinds of books I really feel like reading.

E) I am particularly repulsed by any story that puts the protagonist or important secondary characters in acutely embarrassing situations, perhaps for humorous effect. I have, seriously, no tolerance at all for that. I’m not likely to get through that scene. This is most likely to happen with romances.

F) My interest just … petered out for no clear reason. I quit opening the book to go on with it. Nothing was causing me to recoil. I just lost interest.

This is the same as one of the above reasons too, the “too easy to put down” reason. I always feel bad about this, especially if I got more than halfway through the book. I just did not really care. Sometimes the protagonist makes a choice I don’t understand or a stupid decision. That can make me pause and then I may be kind of reluctant to go on and then I get less interested. But sometimes I just lose interest for no obvious reason. I think that happens more often than it used to.

However, even though I’m all about not wasting time reading books I don’t like, I will often finish books that are only moderately engaging. That’s because being able to put a book down is a feature, not a bug, if I have stuff of my own I’m working on, which I do almost all the time these days.

And finally,

G) The book is too difficult. The setting is too astonishing. The prose is too good.

I know, right? This is all completely unfair to the book. But this is the opposite of “moderately engaging.” These are books the reader has to really pay attention to. And I don’t have time or attention to spare because I have deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, and do not want to stop and read something to which I have to truly pay attention.

If the book is engaging enough, I’ll get over that hump. But I may read just, I don’t know, two pages and say, “LATER! LATER WHEN I HAVE TIME!” And that is why my TBR pile is so extreme and why it is taking me three years or whatever to get around to reading plenty of really good books.

There are increasing numbers of books on my Kindle that fit this latter category.

That is, alas (?), probably going to continue because I have just no shortage of books of my own I want to work on.

You know what has become a hundred times more inviting over the last week? Anything on my TBR pile? No: the idea of writing a direct sequel to NO FOREIGN SKY. I am so, so easy to influence. All it takes is a handful of positive comments and great reviews and boom! I instantly feel much more happy about the book and much more inclined to go on with the series. I was so bored with proofreading NO FOREIGN SKY, but now that feeling has vanished like the mist and I’m starting to think, Okay, how could I maintain a fast pace like that in a sequel? Maybe I should try throwing a very brief outline together...

I hit a new-to-me low in numbers of books read last year, probably. I can see that is likely to happen again this year. The number of books I barely try or DNF is probably even going to increase. Well, that’s too bad, but here we are. Someone needs to invent Magic Clones or something so I can both work on my own books and simultaneously read other people’s books.

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10 thoughts on “I did not finish your book”

  1. I dislike the romantic comedies where the female heroine is both a) fired and b) dumped, so she returns home. I also hate the romantic comedies which start out with discussions of male anatomy. I mean, why, God, why? I much prefer competent heroines. Someone who writes on your blog recommended Casey Blair’s Tea Princess chronicles, where the heroine runs away but immediately demonstrates competence, or Julie James’ books, where the heroines are all successful lawyers. Starting out with evil is a no go, too.

  2. Hi Rachel, I’m excited to hear you’re thinking about a NFS sequel. I would love to read that! It’s a weird feature on Kindle that they segregate book reviews by country. If you’re looking for more positive feedback, you could try loading the Amazon website from other countries, and look up NFS there. My review came from Canada, and for a long time I was disappointed to be the only reviewer – until you mentioned on your blog that you had 10 or 13 reviews, or something like that, and i realized I had to go to Amazon US to see them.

  3. Here’s one more: I bought your book as a hate-read, planning to write a poison pen review. But. I. Couldn’t. Even. (I did this exactly once, for an astonishingly bad pride prejudice and dragons series with a dubious number of positive reviews. For actual PP&D, I recommend Temeraire fan fiction, particularly that by amarguerite.)

  4. …My bad. I just rechecked in Amazon, and the Amazon Canada page now shows reviews from both countries. I’m seeing 9 reviews total. It wasn’t like that when the book first came out.

  5. I almost always DNF a book within the first few pages. (Especially if there’s a prologue where the POV character dies and chapter 1 starts over again with a new POV character.)
    But there was one book that I actually DNF’d when I was 98% through. The last 10% of the book was like moving through molasses; it got slower and slower until I couldn’t stand it any more. I can’t imagine how the poor writer must have struggled to finish the story, and I sympathize, but life is too short.

  6. Yeah, I also mostly have Did Not Starts – I don’t DNF too much lately because what I actually manage to get engaged with is so particular. Used to DNF more, for mostly the same reasonsas yours. HATE when the prologue protagonist is a fakeout who dies.

  7. I hate those embarrassing situations, too.

    I particularly hate it when it’s because they are acting like an idiot — even if you have carefully characterized so that I agree, yes, that character WOULD act like an idiot in that situation, but I still hate it.

  8. There are some books that start out promising and then have a boggy middle that doesn’t go anywhere, or the plot ends up being too predictable and I don’t care enough about the characters to stick with it. So I’ve definitely put books down halfway through and not picked them up again. There are too many other good books out there: I feel no obligation to finish a mediocre one. But I think 75% is as far as I’ve gotten into a book that I DNFed.

    (When you mentioned clones to read more books, I thought “Yes!” But then I realized that the clone would get to read the book and I wouldn’t, so that wouldn’t work! Unless our memories were somehow linked. But I’d rather have the experience of reading a good book than the memory of having read it.)

    I thought somewhere you had mentioned a No Foreign Sky prequel: the first meeting of the Turun and the abandoned human colony. Or was that just wishful thinking that I turned into a memory?! We definitely need to see more of this culture, whether backward or forward in time. (What about the story leading up to Kaamhaara being accepted onto the ship? Or Davaan and his sister joining Kaamhaara’s sept? or ….)(I could go on, if you need more encouragement! BUT: please don’t forget about Silver Circle!) ;)

  9. Earlier, I was thinking more about the prequel, Kim, as a way to get past the boredom I fought through when proofing NFS. Now I am thinking about a sequel first, maybe two, and *then* a prequel.

    Melanie, I think it can take a bit for Amazon to link everything together. That’s probably what happened. And thanks for writing a review!

    Mary Catelli, I totally agree, I can’t bear it even if idiocy is in character.

    Evelyn, wow. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me. I think about the latest I’ve stopped is around the fifty percent mark.

  10. Evelyn–
    Was it GWTW? It was the only HS assignment I DNFed, at around p 800-900. I never got to the iconic line, though I agree with it wholeheartedly.

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