1. Mechanics can cripple a tale - I am not an editor. I need an editor to edit my work. Still, when I see glaring errors even I can pick out, it makes for difficult reading. It is almost as if the work has to be edited to make any sense.
2. An unlikable character is another reason - Philip Roth, a masterful writer, may be able to make a pedophile into a sympathetic character. Trust me; most authors do not have this skill. I declined to review a book that included a selfish heroine who refused to have anything to do with her a father because he married a woman she didn’t like. She even kept her grandson away from his grandfather. When her father dies suddenly, she complains about how inconvenient it is and how she looks bad in black. I could not force myself to continue to read the book enough to find out if she developed a soul. I found out almost every reviewer refused it too. The publisher was shopping it around for positive reviews only.
3. Lack of research - I once read a book that took place on an Indiana farm. The author’s unfamiliarity with farming, the crops that grow in Indiana and the general geography hurt her credibility with anyone from Indiana, or with a farming background, or had the ability to use the Internet. Many people want to write historical novels, but they don’t want to do the research. Historical readers are great historians. They recognize an out of period item or even a word.
4. Believability - Fantasy and science fiction get a pass on this. I understand fiction is pretend, but some things only happen in comic books. A cougar novel had the fifty-year-old former model heroine more beautiful and toned than her twenty year old model employees. Whenever she walked into a room, men’s mouths fell open. She was also a billionaire, owned most of the town and ran several businesses. The poor woman couldn’t find an available man to date. Which part do you find hard to believe?
5. Sameness - I think people read novels by a particular author for some sameness. They’re comfortable with reading the same thing over and over. However, when it is the exact same plot line in the same place with different main characters, it’s still the same novel.
6. Vulgarity factor - I don’t think of myself as a prude. I used to be a beta reader for several different types of erotica a few years back. While some of the books I read were funny, far-fetched, or just plan goofy, they do not compare to what’s out currently. Some writers have their characters tortured, kept hostage and raped by several men. They liked to call it bondage. Yeah, right.
7. The agenda peddlers - You don’t have to read more than a chapter into these books to see what the agenda is. It could be pro-gun or anti-gun. It might be anti-meat penned by a vegan. Everyone has opinions. That’s fine, but an opinion is not a story arc.
8. The story doesn’t go anywhere - I will freely admit to finishing these books thinking they will get better. Sigh. The best example I’ve seen is a mystery with twenty-two possible murderers. After persevering through 500 plus pages, the detective announces he can’t figure it out.
9. Too little conflict - Everyone is wonderful in the story and there are no problems. What is the plot line again?
10. Too much conflict - Some writers, hearing that conflict drives the story, manage to pile on endless twists, from unknown brothers to counteragents. After about the thirtieth conflict is introduced, I realize I no longer care.
11. Great beginnings that melt into miserable middles - The book had so much promise, but then it went nowhere. The first part of the book was the contest entry, which explains why it was better than the rest.
12. No explanation - This tends to happen more in fantasy or science fiction, where the writer uses language or terms that hasn’t been explained to the reader. He created the word so he knows what it means. The rest of us, however, might like a clue.
All in all, there really aren’t that many books I don’t finish. I really hate it when I read an entire series only to have a sucky ending. I persevered through six books for that ending. When do you stop reading?