10 reasons why I hated your book – Part 1

I am, like several others here, a reading addict. I read everything I can lay hands on, though the number of books I read has become drastically fewer these days. I push myself to be selective about the books I choose to read, and I almost have a half read book always at my arm’s distance – be it on my mobile or the old-fashioned hard bound. 
 I almost never stop a book half way before completing it. I remember struggling to complete Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure, when I was in my 3rd grade, though I understood almost nothing about it. To this day I am a little bit skeptical about reading a play. 
But of late, I have realized that not all books deserve that endurance and am still teaching myself to let go if I do not enjoy what I read. It is a tough act, but I finally realized that books are like people. We love some, we put up with a few and then there are truly some that we wanna hurl across the hall. Most of us do not talk about those terrible books in our blogs, not as we are nice people but because we value our sanity more.
So, as much as I continue to feel guilty about the books I did not finish, I revisited them and tried to understand what makes us commit such blasphemy. I could summarize almost everything that I discussed with my fellow bibliophiles under a single head ‘bad writing.’ Some of my friends decide to stop reading a book if they are not intrigued by the first few pages, while others like me can persevere through them, even if they are poorly written – well mostly.
Bad writing is usually a combination of bland plot, characters without depth, unnatural dialogues or all above and more. Of course deciding what is bad writing is extremely subjective and we may never reach a consensus on that matter. While somehow the reader’s world agree that Twilight and Fifty Shades series are the worst written books, what turns you off, as a reader or a writer?
I am writing this series of posts because I feel compelled to and I do owe it to all the great books I love. Here are a few things that would make me love a book a lot lesser.

10) Trying too hard to sound clever

I must be the color of The Communist Manifesto. – Fifty shades of Grey, E L James
How hard is to say ‘red’? Won’t ‘I turned a shade of crimson’ suffice? Where did the communist manifesto even come from?
#Discussion: 10 reasons why I could not finish your book - Part 1
We all know the difference between being smart and sounding smart. If your writing made you feel smarter than your audience then there is something amiss. If your writing sounds like writing, rewrite it. 
I almost refrained from quoting this line from the same golden 50 Shades of grey, but I wanted to know. 

The elevator whisks me with terminal velocity to the twentieth floor. – Fifty shades of Grey, E L James

Ain’t terminal velocity something else?
9) Sentences that make me cringe:
I am not talking about graphic sex or violence imagery. Oh, them I could take. There is cutesy and there is crass, and there is a great distance between them. 

My inner goddess is doing a triple axel dismount off the uneven bars, and abruptly my mouth is dry – Fifty shades of Grey, E L James.

I can not think of one person who would describe themselves or any part of them as ‘inner goddess’? If that did not put you off, then this line from E L James’ latest book Grey would do the trick.
#Discussion: 10 reasons why I could not finish your book - Part 1

Her sharp intake of breath is music to my dick – Grey, E L James

(Ermm.. how does that even work?)
8) Slangs:
Okaye! We all like being part of the hip crowd and we may use these words, like in our everyday life (see what I did there?). But can we keep them off our beloved novels, if we can help it? This might be a pet peeve and maybe there are others who are okay with your ‘cool lingo,’ but you will have to excuse me. I can understand the usage sparingly in a YA, but too many of them spoil my interest. So please do not LOL, ha ha or heart it. I would hate it, totes! 
7) Purple Prose:
How does this excerpt settle on you?

The trawler plunged into the angry swells of the dark, furious sea like an awkward animal trying desperately to break out of an impenetrable swamp. The waves rose to goliathan heights, crashing into the hull with the power of raw tonnage; the white sprays caught in the night sky cascaded downward over the deck under the force of the night wind.  – The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum.

The trawler plunged into the sea with high tides, didn’t it? Sorry I could not focus beyond that. I get fed up reading too many technicalities that do not matter to me, as a reader. 
Do I care what gun he shot them with?
Yes, if it is a whodunnit and if it would matter in finding the evil mastermind.
Result: I skim them if they seem irrelevant.
In fact, this is what made me stop reading Forsyth and Dan Brown after I devoured one or two of their books initially. Telegraph even made a not-so-satirical article on Brown’s notorious purple prose.
Keep a look out for the second part of the series on 10 reasons why I could not finish your book. Why not, go ahead share the reasons that would make you shelf a book without reading it?


  1. Andreea

    Wait? That is actually a line in the book? From now on I think that’s how I’m going to complimate every red thing ever.

    And I can’t read Dan Brown – I never understood why, but you might have just illuminated me.

    • Gayathri

      I am wearing a Communist Manifesto coloe shirt! See I did it already.

  2. Fanna

    Haha, I loved this! Fifty Shades of Grey is just so perfect because it can be used as an example to all the bad writing tactics, plots and characters out there. Can’t wait for the second part of this!

    • Gayathri

      There is a second part to this post already. You can check it 🙂

  3. Gayathri Lakshminarayanan

    I agree with sticking to standard English. Slangs are just annoying, especially if they are used profusely.

  4. Gayathri Lakshminarayanan

    There are books I love, with long yet beautiful descriptions but not every author can pull that off.

    Hey BTW, I am a long time stalker of your blog 🙂 Love your discussion posts.

  5. Wendy

    These are hilarious.

    With slang, as a teacher of 12-14 year olds, there are some authors who can really pull it off (Matt de la Pena) and others who just make me cringe. If you can't talk the talk, just write standard English and don't embarrass yourself.

  6. Nicole Hewitt

    I like beautiful writing, but not when it's just overwhelming description, like you pointed out—or if it just sounds plain ridiculous! And I'm also not a fan of crass.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  7. Gayathri Lakshminarayanan

    That should be an interesting game. I will keep a look out for the crimson note. Thanks for the tidbit. Stick around 🙂

  8. Carrie Adair

    The narrator of Fifty Shades of Grey is plain annoying. We could probably create an exercise routine for every time she talked about her "inner goddess" (10 push ups for each mention).

    For number 10, I have actually read a complaint about using "crimson" when it comes to translation in Dutch (I think it was Dutch). In that language, "crimson" isn't used in everyday speech or writing because everyone just says "red." I wish could remember which blogger pointed this out, but it was an interesting post when I read it. I love this post.


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Gayathri has been reviewing books since 2010. When she is not reading books or creating online content, she works as a writer and a digital marketer. Head over to meet me!