6 Reasons Why You Lose a Reader - #WriteTip #GetPublished #AmWriting

Today’s post is form the perspective of a reader, and not a writer or editor. For the first time in my life, I have not finished more books than I’ve read over the last twelve months. But I’m not the type of reader that feels compelled to finish a book after I’ve started it, and I never feel guilty for not finishing a book. 

Why waste my time on something that I’m not enjoying?

I could be developing ADD. I don’t usually have this issue. Normally, I read two to three books a month if not more. 

Recently, I’ve been feeling somewhat burned out on the Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance genres, so I began reading more contemporary novels in both Young Adult and New Adult. I loved “Beautiful Disaster” by Jaimie McGuire and “Easy” by Tammara Webber. The only paranormal type books that I’m still loving are the Arcane Chronicles by Kresley Cole (this series is insanely good!) and C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series.

Why did I DNF so many novels? Well, I personally felt like some of these wonderful stories were lacking in few areas. By lacking, I mean, not holding my interest. To be fair, most of these books were well-written by talented writers, but by page fifty or one hundred, I no longer cared how the story ended or about the characters. (BTW, the vast majority of the books I did DNF were NA novels.) 

So I thought I’d share my views on what might turn some readers off. Maybe you’ve been querying literary agents and you've been repeatedly rejected, or you’re an indie or self-published author who is getting numerous bad reviews, or sales just aren’t taking off like you’d hoped on your newest release. Or perhaps you’re working on your current WIP and your CPs are telling you that the story is dragging in some places or the pacing is too slow. Whatever the reason, I hope these six reasons help to improve your awesome narrative.

First let me say this…

I get it. I really do. Your book is like your baby, and you love it and you’ve poured your sweat and blood and tears into it. But sometimes you need a take a step back and look at the writing from a reader’s perspective…

Reasons why a reader doesn't finish a book.
Reason 1:

The first half of the novel is mostly filled with introspection or backstory. Which means: pages upon pages of internal yakking without any action or dialogue. 

Inner-monologue or internal exposition is one of the essential ingredients used to create a comprehensive story. Unfortunately, it’s all too often one of the most misused elements in storytelling. Since internal-monologue is slower and can be boring for the reader, find ways to bring it to life through Deep POV, action, and/or dialogue. Don’t let your character’s mental babble (long blocks of introspection) go on for pages at a time without a break by either dialogue or action. 

Dialogue illustrates characterization quicker than any amount of exposition. If you disrupt the action and dialogue to include colossal chunks of detailed description or introspection, it will remove the reader from the story. These are some of the drawbacks of too much introspection, otherwise known as info-dumps, inner-monologue, internal dialogue, exposition, or author intrusion. 

Yet, if I’m being honest, I have to admit that I’ve written a couple of bad novels. And had them published under a pen name many years ago. But that was long before I sharpened my writing skills and studied the art of fiction writing with a crazed intensity. I read articles on editing and revision, books on the craft, and studied style guides. I love learning new ways to improve my writing, so hopefully you gleam some insight from this post.

Reason 2:

The novel has some intriguing dialogue and action, but between it (or even worse, right in the middle!) the characters have long, bloated paragraphs or pages of internal-monologue. One book that I recently read by a bestselling author had her characters talking, and then suddenly in the middle of the conversation, the main character stopped yakking and had three pages of introspection. Three. Pages. Now picture this in real life, you’re having a conversation with someone and they abruptly stop talking and stare off into space for five to ten minutes. 

Wouldn't you think that was odd?  

When a writer does this, I always wonder what the other character is dong while these wordy internal-monologues are going on, and I find myself skimming over the wordy text to get back to the dialogue.

Too much introspection can hinder the flow of a scene and smack of author intrusion by yanking the reader out of the story. Especially, smack dab in the middle of dialogue. If you feel it is important, then please try to keep the exposition to no more than a few sentences or a very short paragraph. 

Reason 3:

The story starts with a great “hook” and a compelling opener, and then the author pushes pause on the story to insert a flashback of backstory that goes on for pages. These scenes stop the action, can be puzzling to the reader, and prevent them from getting on with the plot, which is generally more attention-grabbing for them. I suggest that writers try to stay in the present moment.

And I recommend never including an info-dump of backstory in your first chapter. And never attempt to dump it in long speeches of dialogue, either. This is also a form of telling rather than showing the reader. And this applies to any flashbacks and memories and thoughts (thoughts = characters pondering stuff). Or having the character ask him/herself a lot of rhetorical questions within the first few pages. This is considered weak writing when a writer uses too many rhetorical questions to drive the narrative forward when that same forward motion could be achieved by just showing the conflict or doubt or confusion through deep POV. 

An info-dump of backstory is one of the worst offenses you can make as a writer in your first two or three chapters. (Hence, the phrase info-dump, because you’re dumping information on the page in long blocks of text.) Introspection and backstory should be elegantly woven into the storyline much later. Don’t ramble on for long paragraphs at a time, or try to force it into becoming dialogue. It’s considered weak writing because it’s jarring for the reader. Often times, info-dumps yank the reader out of the story because it reminds the reader that they’re reading and the author has intruded. A concise paragraph placed throughout the narrative is fine. 

Reason 4:

“Slow writing with a lot of description puts me off very quickly. I like a first chapter that moves quickly and draws me in so I’m immediately hooked.” —Andrea Hurst, Andrea Hurst Literary Management

A few polls taken on goodreads state that the number one reason that readers will put a book down is because it is too slow or they found the plot boring. 

There is a great post on this here to read after you finish my rant, er, post.

Now, I don’t need heart-pounding action in every scene, but some books have no forward movement. 

A major issue might be as simple as nothing much happens within the first four or five chapters. I’m not saying you have to include car chases or a bloody murder scene, but something DIFFERENT must occur. By this, I mean some event, big or medium, must happen that changes the protagonist’s normal world. It could be the loss of a job, they meet a werewolf walking through the park, they accidentally lose the church fund raiser money, their car is stolen, someone dies, they witness "something" they shouldn't hear or see, they find an ominous note left on their doorstep, or anything that upsets the main character's normal world.

Or you have major events unfolding, but your characters are just drifting through scenes without any real involvement or connection to what’s going on. They become omnipresent narrators by telling the reader what is happening to other characters or themselves, but this old-fashioned method only reminds readers that they're reading a story.

Most writing advice will state that a writer should dump their character(s) into the midst of some horrible dilemma. 

Whether you want your manuscript to stay clear of the slush pile and gain an agent’s interest or entice a reader to flip the page of your self-published novel, as the writer your job is to keep the reader interested and turning pages. Period.

You’re probably wondering how to get readers to instantly connect with your characters if they don’t know more about their backstory or history.

Don’t worry about that in the first few chapters, and learn to trust your readers. If you’ve began your novel at a crucial point in the character(s) lives where they’re caught in some type of conflict or danger or the inciting incident, then the reader is going to connect with them right away and be eager to find out what happens next. The reader will have a natural curiosity in finding out how the characters resolve their differences, stop the antihero, tackle their fears, or overcome adversity.

Reason 5:

Readers cannot relate to your character(s) or don't sympathize with them. Most readers need someone to root for in a story. If your main characters come across as too unlikable, you've got a major problem. They can be grumpy people, but give them at least one nice character trait. For example: your main character is a bitter, angry old man who hates everyone and is rude to every person he meets, but he adores his cat. See? He has one nice quality.

Or another reason could be that readers find your characters hard-to-believe or just don’t care about them. Obviously not every character is going to have an outstanding starring role in your manuscript, but the central character (s) and antagonist must be the type of people we’d care about.

Give readers at least one reason to hope the character might get a happy ending or please give them some redeeming qualities.

A short time ago, I read a book about a verbally abusive and physically violent heroine who attacked the love interest with cruel insults, name-calling, and brutal assaults. She was not very likable, and the other main character just put up with her vicious attacks because he claimed he was a gentlemen. I felt so sorry for him! But wondered why he put up with the heroine who was such a douchecanoe. So in a way, he seemed weak to me and unlikeable, too. The only reason I read over half of the book was because the protagonist had a big secret she was hiding, which helped keep my interest but once it was revealed, I stopped reading. It tried to explain her motives for the violent behavior, but to me it felt too shallow.

Reason 6:
Another reason might be that your main character is lacking any goals, wants, or needs. These I feel are essential to any storyline. The character must “want” something. For example a better job, a way out of an abusive marriage, a mystery to solve, a villain to overcome, a fresh start on life, a murder to plot, a curse to break, a way to survive in a war or zombie apocalypse, or even have them crave a late-night snack. 

Give them a “want,” and then pile on a ton of obstacles in their way of achieving this “need.” You don’t have to go big with the problems; even simple ones can be interesting and/or funny. But give your characters some type of internal want that seems unachievable. 

I like reading about characters that have real motives that propel the plot forward. So please give your character's a "goal."

In my current WIP, the heroine's goal (want) is to join a sorority, but there are not enough major obstacles in her way, even while she is trying to survive rush week. It was hard to hear, but three of my CPs said they liked the main character, but felt like nothing much was happening to push the plot forward and the storyline was kind of boring. And they were right. 

The first half of my manuscript needs a major rewrite. I need to redefine my heroine's core "needs" and cut back on the introspection. I guess that is why so many writers say that first and second drafts suck. But with more revision, all writers can change their ugly babies into beauty-pageant cuties!

Anyhoo, I sincerely hope this post inspires you to polish your WIP, or helps to make your revisions less painful. 

I’m sure there are lots of valid reasons for not finishing a book, so please add yours in the comments. 

Why do you put a book down?

What are your pet-peeves as a reader?


Also, read THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO A BESTSELLING NOVEL for more inspiration!

Awesome Tips on Crafting a Riveting Story that instantly Grabs Your Reader...

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    6 Popular Genre Plot Templates
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    Advice on Writing Scene Hooks
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