Things That Make a Book Hard to Read


Hard to read? Uh-oh. Why would anyone say that about my book?

I am a mom. I have three kids and a husband and can count on getting interrupted every five minutes unless someone is getting in trouble. Then there is silence. Yikes! But seriously, I had to hone my powers of remembering interrupted plotlines and ignoring pointless background noises. Still, I am an excellent judge of whether a book is easy to read or not.

Here are the things I find that make a book hard to read:

Lots of description. Don’t get me wrong. I love descriptions. But if your main reason for writing is that you like to describe things in writing, I am going to have a tough time with your book, or I will skim. It’s an evil word, I know, but it’s true.

Grammatical errors. I certainly wouldn’t accuse any of you of making grammatical errors in a book! But for all those other writers out there, they should know that nothing destroys the flow of a book like a misspelling, or one of those insidious proper spellings of the wrong word. If you misuse your, you’re or something else atrocious, which you wouldn’t do, I shake my head and make a disapproving mommy noise. But it ruins the love scene or the battle scene or whatever.

Creative word order. If you are a poet, I expect you to invert word order like Yoda to make it rhyme or to bring out the meaning of the word. You sometimes need that. But if you are writing prose, it just confuses me. You want me to see the images without bothering with the words. I should forget they are there. If entangled in your sentence, I am, then irritated with your story will I be. Hmmmmm. (Think of this in Yoda’s voice.)

Rabbit trails. Really, the point of a “rabbit trail” is to go off of the subject just for fun. I get it. But if you don’t get back to the actual point at the end of the trail, you are just stuck in a dirty hole. Yeah.

Odd reactions. Think about your character’s more emphatic reactions to things before you upload the book to Smashwords or whatever. If somebody tells your character a piece of information and they suddenly hurl something breakable across the room, there darn well better be a legitimate reason for them to do that–spiders maybe, but something. That is too violent a reaction when hearing sad things about someone’s past or not enough likes on a facebook post.

Missing information. You may not agree with me on what information needs to be added to a scene. That’s fine. But if I, the reader, am left with this gaping hole in your story, is that what you want? For instance: Bob is driving to work and thinking about his ex-girlfriend Pam who crushed his heart like a ball of tinfoil, but then he drives into the parking garage–that’s all. Pam is this giant thing that is mentioned but never explained. I feel like I have missed another entire book there. Maybe I have, but that has to be clear so I can go find and buy the book. See?

What else? I know I missed some. What else is there to destroy the flow of a book? Write!

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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Things That Make a Book Hard to Read

  1. Me too! Especially #1. I know some people love to have the whole picture painted for them, but it kills the story for me.

  2. miq

    I love this post. Very good things to keep in mind when you’re rereading a draft.

  3. I agree with all those and would add, too much information, lack of realistic motivations in the characters, stilted dialogue and circumstantial happenings making up a large part of the book’s plot. Oh, and lots of writing that tells rather than shows. Let’s face it, it’s really hard to write a good book.

  4. Too much dialogue or lack thereof… something I’ve struggled (and still struggle) with myself when I write. There’s a thin line between ‘what was the point in that random conversation’ and ‘(S)He really should have taking longer to explain what (S)He was trying to say’.

    And I agree with there being such a thing as too much description. I get the need to make sure the reader understands exactly where you were coming from (Nothing’s worse then someone reading your story then saying “I don’t get it”- cue dagger to the heart) but overdoing it can take away the fun, for me, of letting my imagination run wild.

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