With social media, TV, streaming videos, and more, writers have a lot to compete with. But even without these distractions, there are still a few things that will make me abandon a book before I reach the final page. Here’s what makes me lose interest (or never become interested) in a story:
1. SPAG. If there are several spelling, punctuation, and/or grammar errors in a book, I’ll be too distracted by them to keep reading, and I know I’m not the only one. This is why if you choose to self-publish, I highly recommend hiring a copy editor. It’s easy to miss our own mistakes, especially when we’ve read the same manuscript 1,000+ times, but someone who’s new to the text will probably catch them.
2. I’m confused. If I have too many names or details thrown at me in the opening pages, with little context or reason to be invested in them, I’ll struggle to maintain interest in a book. Similarly, if there are too few details — I have no idea where or when a scene is taking place, or an important person or event is mentioned as though I should understand its significance — I won’t be able to enjoy the story. I’ll be too busy trying to figure out the context to pay attention to what’s actually happening.
Going along with that, unclear timelines will also make me put a book down. If a story jumps around a bit in time, that’s fine, as long as it’s clear when each scene is taking place. If we jump six months in one paragraph without so much as a line break, you’re going to lose me.
3. I don’t care about the characters. This is NOT the same thing as not liking the characters. I’ve enjoyed books where I disliked the main characters, but I was still invested in their story. I still wanted to know what happened to them, even if I personally didn’t agree with their decisions or their outlooks on life. I can hate a character and love the book; I just need to feel something for that character.
4. Implausible actions or events. If the protagonist does something that’s completely out of character, it’ll take a lot for the author to earn my trust back. If I feel like a major event or decision exists solely to move the plot forward, I’ll be that much more critical of everything else I read in that book — if I decide to keep reading. I don’t want stories to feel contrived; I don’t want to see the author’s hand manipulating the story. The characters and their (believable) actions must drive the story.
5. I don’t connect with the story. This isn’t anything a writer can fix, but I think it’s worth mentioning, because it reminds me that not everyone will love my books. I’ve read books that got multiple starred reviews, awards, accolades, etc. that I just didn’t like. And that’s okay. Not every story is right for every reader. If a great book just isn’t for me, I might not finish it, but I still might recommend it to someone else who’s looking for that kind of story. If the writing is good, I want the right readers to find it.
So, those are the five main reasons why I’ll put down a book. What are yours?