I’ve been in reading slump and I hate it. I’ve written some 5 star reviews recently, but mostly I’m going back to old classics because I haven’t found a new author, or new book, to rave about for awhile. That sucks. There’s nothing better than getting swept into a new discovery, where the characters pull you in, the plot keeps you pinned, and the writing entrances. But I downloaded four books for a 12-hour flight from Australia to LA last weekend and couldn’t finish any of them. Is it me? Maybe! But here are some other theories about why I bailed on each of them.
The characters were TOO MUCH. The celebrity soccer player is also a billionaire. The science prodigy is also a viscount.... This strains credulity in a genre that already asks its readers to suspend a lot of disbelief. Romance characters can and should be internally complex but their outward identities should be clear and simple. Now their identities are not the same as their situations, which can be complicated or even unlikely: ie. that celebrity soccer player could discover a long lost biological sister (or something) and that would be cool! But keep things simple by giving characters one main role to play.
The plot was TOO MUCH. The heroine loses her apartment and her job and her fiancé all in the first scene. It’s possible to make all of these work in one fell swoop (see Penny Reid’s Neanderthal Meets Human!) but it’s very very tough. Reid pulls it off with a smirk and a great sense of humor. Some angsty romance writers, like L.J. Shen, can pull off over-the-top mega-drama, but even then the drama is in the situation OR the character’s background, not both. Avoid the plot pile-on.
The sex was TOO MUCH. This is a problem I rarely encounter because I choose my books carefully and avoid what's classified as erotica unless I already know the author. I’m interested in romances, not sex feasts, though I sometimes get this criticism for my own books (everyone has different thresholds for “too” anything and I’ve gone back and revised books that many readers felt had too much sex). But in general, sex that’s reported like a radio announcer (they did this, then this, then this) and recurs every time the characters are in the same place bores me. I start skimming. And then I stop reading. Keep the sex focused on the feeling, not the doing, and make each scene count.
I want to be positive and supportive in this awesome community but I believe in productive criticism. What are the pet peeves that make you give up on a book? How do you break out of a slump?