I was recently trying to get through a memoir. The writing was fine. The topic was interesting, but I wasn’t engaged as I thought I would be. All the signs were there that I would love this book. But it wasn’t working out. I quickly moved on to something else and haven’t thought about that book since. Not until this post anyway…
It got me thinking: Why didn’t I like that book?
The language, tone, style — all of it didn’t enhance my reading experience. A good book cradles my imagination or for nonfiction, thoughtfully leads me down a path I’m excited to explore. This book just couldn’t get me there.
Here are the top reasons readers typically abandon good books–these reasons lose readers immediately:
In an effort to wow the reader, authors do the opposite by overusing words and long phrases that could easily be pared down. The accomplice to wordiness is redundancy. All writers write useless sentences, paragraphs, and sometimes entire chapters. Most manuscripts can be cut by a third, and then be cut by a third again. Seek and destroy bloat. Those deadbeat words cost you money!
In most books meant for general readers, everyday language beats jargon, and editors and readers prefer it. Don’t use words that you wouldn’t use in normal conversation. Again, your job is to connect with your audience on an emotional level, draw them in, and keep them wanting more. Jargon breaks all of those rules. If you wouldn’t say it in real life, reword or delete it all together.
If your book is written in past tense, keep it that way through the whole book. Similarly, if your book is written in first person, the narration shouldn’t arbitrarily switch to third person. If you write “website” without a hyphen or space, don’t later use “web site” or “web-site.” Readers hate to feel like they’ve missed something.
What do you think? Why do you stop reading a book that otherwise should have offered a positive reading experience?