writers as readers

What Readers Don’t Like, and Maybe Why

Readers of this blog must know by now that I can’t resist questioning anything that looks like a writing rule. I’ve read, and quibbled with, all kinds of “thou shalt nots,” from plot structure to specific words. The rationale is usually that these things alienate readers and make them stop reading a story, or prevent them from starting.

But here’s an idea: how about asking readers what they don’t like? That was the topic in a recent post on writer Pete Springer’s blog entitled My Pet Peeves as a Reader. All writers are also readers (or should be). A lot of writers read that post and commented. (By the way, the post also includes a lively discussion about sunflower seeds.)

As I read them, the top three peeves in Pete’s post and the comments are:

  • Rushed or otherwise unsatisfying endings
  • Wordiness, meaning either too much description or too many fancy/obscure words
  • Typos and errors

I wondered why these were the most often mentioned. Would this list be any different if the commenters weren’t mostly writers? I certainly don’t have any statistical data about this. The following are just my personal off-the-cuff thoughts.

  • Most people watch filmed stories of one sort or another; books have to compete with their instantaneous visual effects. Slowness is bad.
  • It takes more mental effort to read a book, i.e., to create a mind-movie, than to absorb a pre-made story, so books have to make that effort worthwhile with an ending that satisfies.
  • Writers spend a lot of time and effort finding typos and errors in their own works, so are likely to notice them in others’ writings. If there are enough of them to be irritating, that’s often a DNF.
  • So many books! Everyone’s TBR pile (physical or virtual) is bursting at the seams. This overabundance has lessened the differences between casual readers and professional ones (agents and editors), whose default approach to a piece of writing is rejection. “Give me a reason to keep reading this.” Such an outlook leads to a low tolerance for things like cliches, repetitiousness, and typos. Writers are especially apt to notice these imperfections because they are hyper-aware of them in their own writing.

Despite all this, the primary audience of many indie authors is other writers. Which is both a good thing and a bit ironic.

Writers, do you consider what your fellow writers might think of your work in progress? Do you modify your writing accordingly?

Featured image from Pexels