How to Know When You are Boring Your Reader to Tears

Ever wondered why your books maybe aren’t getting purchased? Finding an agent to rep them? Or just plain and simply catching on?

There are a ton of reasons why books don’t connect. Timing, luck, voice, content, etc. Some of these aren’t controllable. But one thing is.

Boring your reader to tears, death, or worse…having them put your book down in disinterest.

It happens. We can’t connect with every reader. And if we try, well, chances are we’ll end up with a book that connects with even fewer people. (Not everyone liked Harry Potter, believe it or not. They just stay in hiding.) But there ARE things we can do to increase our chances of connecting with our readers and one of the big things is not boring them.

I know, right?

How to Know if You are Boring Your Readers and What to Do About it

The easiest way to figure out if you are boring your readers is to see if you are boring yourself.

Seems too basic, doesn’t it?

Right now there could be some of you thinking, “But there isn’t a stitch of boringness in my whole story!” Could be true. Maybe you wrote The Hunger Games. If so, you’re excused. However, the other several billion of us did not. So, dig deep and fall out of love with yourself for a moment (shouldn’t be too hard–we are artists, after all where self-doubt and loathing is as common as cheap bar soap).

Here are a few inklings that things aren’t as tight and as exciting as you might wish them to be in your story and you might be boring your reader.

1) Anywhere you get bored in your story. No excuses. If you’re like, “But it is vital backstory and has to be there. I rewrote it ten times. That’s as good as it is going to get.” Wake up. Give yourself a smack. And keep reading.

There is a way to fix this! Add conflict. Add characters. Force that backstory to come out and play! Scrap the entire scene and start from scratch. Trying to ‘edit’ crap our of your soup and make it something thrilling doesn’t work as well as cleaning the pot and starting over with fresh ingredients. Crap persists!

So, when you rewrite over an old scene that needs major revamping, it is too tempting to use old witty phrases that don’t fit. Too easy to get locked into the very thing that wasn’t working in the first round. Tuck the old scene away (it’s doubtful you’ll go back to it, but it will make you feel better). Then start again and think conflict. Raise the stakes. Push your characters.

A quick example. I had a scene rife with backstory. The character was watching/stalking someone and listing every single reason why she needed to stalk this person from A to Z. From this moment back to ten years earlier. *yawn* Holy backstory trash alert!

I scrapped it. I pushed her sister into the scene–a sister who didn’t have a clue why the heroine was acting so weird. She also didn’t have a clue that her sister was struggling to keep a secret. And EVERYthing in that scene was a secret from her sister.

What did I suddenly have? Conflict. Tension. Unanswered story questions moving the plot forward. Heck, it even held my own interest.

2) You don’t want to read it to edit it. Then there is a big problem. Somewhere, somehow things went off on you.

(And yes, some people don’t like reading their work at all and always think it sucks. If you are that person and this one applies to your whole story, maybe you aren’t writing what you truly enjoy. OR maybe you are a bit hard on yourself. Or, maybe you have just been working too dang long on this story and need a break. Go write something fun and see what happens.)

Fix it. Go back to the last place you remember ‘enjoying’ the read/edit. Think about what happened between that point and where you just stopped editing. Did the characters lose their conflict or what they were fighting for? Did the plot stop moving forward? Is there too much rehashing? Can’t figure it out? Bring in a fresh set of eyes to help you out. (And I’m not referring to eye surgery.)

3) You are finding reasons to procrastinate. This is a biggie. Sometimes you are just tired and burned out. But if the scene really sings, you should be wanting to dive in and read it, tweak it, touch it up. (Not find other things to do like taking out the trash.) A good scene is like hanging out with your favourite person. It’s enjoyable! If you don’t want to hang out with a scene, chances are your reader won’t want to, either.

4) You glaze over it so you can get to the good stuff. Whoa! Stop the bus. This should alllll be good stuff. If you want to glaze it, so does the reader. There is no excuse for glazing a scene.

Yeah, yeah, there are bestselling books where it doesn’t ‘start’ until page fifty. Those are flukes. Are you a fluke? Likely not. Go work on your story.

Cure. Is this stuff you want to glaze over something that can be placed into scenes elsewhere? And can it be trimmed from three paragraphs to one line? And can it be held back from the reader until that last second–the second they need it in order to understand what is about to happen? Keeping secrets from the reader is okay. Leaving questions unanswered to keep them reading is okay. Heck, it’s essential! Another quickie–maybe you are repeating yourself? Cut it out. Be ruthless!

All right. Anything hit a button in the back of your mind? Go forth and play with your writing. Good luck!

P.S. I have been hit and miss on posting lately. You know, trying to publish a crap-load of books (7) in a year (see you in the funny farm) will do that to a gal! If you don’t want to miss helpful new posts, be sure to add your best email address in the box on the right. Then, new posts will instantly go to your computer/phone/tablet’s email for you to enjoy. Because I know you want to become a better writer and don’t want to miss the next great tips.

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9 comments on “How to Know When You are Boring Your Reader to Tears
  1. Jemi Fraser says:

    Good advice! I’ve been working on the rewriting completely one lately – definitely works better for me than trying to change what’s there (unless it’s just tweaking of course!)

    • jeanoram says:

      I resist rewriting completely, but it seems to help with a truly boring scene. (Tweaks are acceptable! Of course.)
      Enjoy the rewrites!

  2. Great post, Jean. Love your voice. Many good tips here, but the one that I really like is “be ruthless.” It can be hard. I have a novella of outtakes I saved when I began cutting all the things that slowed the narrative, Cut the parts that readers would skim. I found so many places where establishing setting through a character’s interaction with the setting–all the senses, smell of the air, feel of the humidity, wet grass on his legs, what he saw, what it made him recall, etc., etc., where the intent was good, but 3/4 was unnecessary. Does it drive the STORY? If not, cut. Secondary characters’ stories played out? Gone. It’s hard, but when you get into the ruthless frame of mind, it’s actually kind of fun and very rewarding. I keep all those pieces in a separate outtakes file, but it feels good to really focus on whether or not your musings, backstory dumps, etc. are really moving the story forward. Everything has to serve the story. And even when it does, often, as you point out, a paragraph can be only a sentence to convey what’s needed.

    Meanwhile, I can’t believe your output. 7 novels in one year? Yikes! Good on you, friend!

    • jeanoram says:

      Thanks, Richard.

      Yes, be ruthless! And those outtakes can always end up as ‘deleted extras’ for readers later on–if they aren’t too scary to share!

      Well, I haven’t put out 7 novels yet this year. There’s still time, but I have to get moving. 😉

  3. Joyce Alton says:

    Oh yes, thank you! Been struggling with a chapter for a month now without really figuring out why. Now I know. I’m not enjoying it. Scrapping it immediately.

    • jeanoram says:

      Yay! My work here is done, Joyce. So glad this post was helpful for you. 🙂 I hope scrapping the chapter works for you.

  4. Mebane Boyd says:

    Interesting to see about when I gloss over something, that perhaps my reader will too. Great advice here. Thanks!

    • jeanoram says:

      Glad it’s helpful Mebane. I can’t believe how long it took me to figure out that if I didn’t want to read it again that my reader likely didn’t want to read it even once. 😉

  5. Hi Jeanoram
    It is a veyr very informative article and I am glad that I like to read my own writing a few times before presenting it to some one which means I am on the right track 🙂 The rest of the points are good too. Thx for sharing

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