In their comments to my post about the whole 5-star thing, Eva and Rhi Etzweiler talked about ratings being based on reading experience and went on to outline what they meant.
This really interested me because I didn’t think I’d really differentiated between my feelings about a book and the actual quality of the work itself.
Consciously, that is.
The more I considered it the more I realised that, yes, there were times when I pointed out a technical niggle which could easily put particular readers off.
By the same token, I’ve also recommended stories you’d think had never seen an editor because I knew they would appeal to certain types of people.
Nor does “technically sound” automatically translate to “five stars” because otherwise we’d all be sitting around reading Doctoral theses and scientific journals.”
Dear God. Just the thought of reading those kinds of tomes makes me want to curl up into a fetal position and start whimpering. Hideous. *shudders*
So, how much does the quality of a book matter to you when you rate it? Perhaps your enjoyment trumps technique every time? Or maybe it’s a balance between the two? Tell me what you think.
Definitely a combo, sometimes if I'm into the book enough I will let a lot of technical stuff go that would normally make me crazy. And if I'd read that same book a week earlier or a week later I would have hated it. My mood, hormones, the weather, what happened at work, etc. will all affect how generous I'm feeling about a book.
Of course there are certain things that almost ALWAYS make me crazy, and other things that nearly always push the right buttons and I'll rate higher because of that. I definitely need more than technical perfection. But if you as me what that is exactly? I have no clue but I'll know it when I read it.
Thanks for commenting, Tam, so that I can simply type, “What Tam said.” 😀
Hmm. My veri word is furness.
Pretty much what Tam said for me too. Though I guess my enjoyment trumps the technical aspect because there are definitely books I've liked and rated highly that had technical problems, but not technically perfect books that I've liked just because they were technically perfect.
And for me it depends on the type of technical errors. If I really like the plot/story/characters, I can overlook mispelled or omitted words. But if it's a more pervasive technical problem– like awkward or simplistic sentences, then I probably won't like it no matter what. Or if there are a lot of exclamation points. I hate exclamation points. 😛
I have to admit, I'm a freak for mastery of the language — or some semblance thereof. Nothing kicks me out of a story faster than dogshit prose, especially dogshit prose riddled with inexcusable technical errors. (I'm not all OCD about it — there are bound to be mistakes in every book — but generally sloppy writing? No can get through.)
Can you imagine somebody calling her/himself a carpenter if s/he doesn't understand how to work wood? Well, there ya go. And you can extend this analogy to just about any profession or trade — or, hell, any human activity.
Now you know why I've never called myself a cook. 😉
Enjoyment of story makes up for a lot of tech mistakes. And it makes the story stand out in my mind so I'll keep the author in mind.
But some tech mistakes will turn me off completely like mixing up the character names (did the author not care enough to proofread?).
And I can't stand manipulative writing (not really a tech mistake but more of an ego mistake). For example, I read a novel by a Swedish mystery writer who had a gratuitously awful scene involving a suicide and a bunch of dogs getting killed, and it felt like she wrote it for no other reason than to make her reader cry. I mean, good golly! Isn't it better to make your readers laugh? (Intentionally, I mean!)
Val, that would infuriate me! I'd never read another word by that person again.
I notice the technical errors. I'll forgive a lot plotwise about a book if I like the characters. I loved Caught Running despite the head-hopping. You know I like some books that don't have a whole lot of plot. I try to recommend certain books to specific people if I know what their tastes are like and think they'd enjoy the books.
This is an interesting post because it links in with something I was thinking yesterday. I'm reading a book which has been on my TBR pile for a good couple of years. I remember that it had great reviews at the time but I'm finding it incredibly dull. It's technically good with no errors, but I just find the MCs really rather boring and can't engage with their romance. You know it's bad when during the 'virgin seduction' scene I was skimming because I didn't really care that it was the first time he'd had buttsecks.
If I'd read that book two years ago, I probably would have really liked it but now it feels tired, like an overdone trope, when in fact it probably wasn't when it first came out.
So it goes to show that my feelings can change over time.
As for technical errors. I don't mind the odd one or two but I do get cheesed off if they are all over the place. Like Tam said, I'm more likely to find them really irritating if I'm not enjoying the book either – almost like the errors compound my dislike of the book.
Great post, Kris!
Pleasure of reading comes before the technical things. Besides English is not my first langauge so I don't see alot of errors anyway.
What I don't like are American writers who over complicate their writing by using 'dificult” words. In that way I prefer British written books.
I don't need technically perfect, I'm looking for escape when I read, not a textbook. I rate books based on how I feel. If a book can lose me in it, capture me, push my buttons, make me flail about… high rating. If it's full of things that bore me, pull me out of it, technically sound or not… low rating. And I'm a mood reader, a book I love today may not be a book I love next week. I'm a moody one 😉
lol I don't really have a system. Which is why I don't call myself a “reviewer”. I'm all willy-nilly, fly by the seat of my pants.
If I enjoy the plot and like the characters and the book just won't allow me to put it down, then I can ignore the technical stuff like misspelled words or even (what to me seem to be) jumbled up sentences. I can even overlook minor plot inconsistencies and the like.
Likewise, if I find the story unappealing and/or bland and don't like the characters, I'll find myself nitpicking and every little technical issue there might be will seem so much worse than it is.
However there are some mistakes that bug me quite a bit. Such as using your and you're like they are interchangeable or calling a character by a different name halfway through the book or worse doing it constantly throughout. But if I'm really enjoying the book I'll survive even those, though with a fair dose of grumbling.
Oh and about what Ingrid said.
Overusing “big” words gets bothersome after a while. I do like to improve my vocabulary through reading in English but there's a point when enough is enough. Yes, I get that you have a thesaurus and a dictionary, but like my English teacher once said sometimes using “big” words makes you look stupid instead of smart.
I can forgive a great deal when it comes to technical perfection — if a story tackles obstacles or tracks off into territory that few dare to.
If it's full of tropes and well-tread territory, it had better be flawless if it wants to keep my attention and make me love it.
As a reader, I don't think there's anything wrong with giving a 5 star rating to a book simply because it's what you were in the mood to read at a given time. In fact, I've given books just that — and stated in the “review” that it's perfect, if what you're looking for is light, fluffy escapism to make your sweet tooth ache…
Sometimes that's just what a reader needs or wants. *shrugs*
Does it truly make the book any less worthy of the five-star rating than the next? Eh.
Art is subjective for a reason. It's all about interpretation. 🙂
(Veri word: fledi. Is that a Flubber-Jedi?)
Tam: “But if you as me what that is exactly? I have no clue but I'll know it when I read it.”
No wonder authors say that readers can be picky bitches and bastards. 😛
And that goes for you too, Chris. 🙂
Richelle: “… but not technically perfect books that I've liked just because they were technically perfect.”
I think many would agree with you… unless you're a snob like KZ.
KZ: So you're saying that, not only aren't you a cook, a writer can not call themselves a writer if their technique is up for shit and they don't know what the hell they're doing.
Hmmm. Maybe that's why I've never aspired to be one…
Val: “Isn't it better to make your readers laugh? (Intentionally, I mean!)”
*snort* Nice one, Val.
I'd never really thought of the notion of manipulative or ego writing, but I absolutely understand what you mean. It makes me wonder whether the gratuitous sex scene at the end of some romance could be viewed as such?? Something to ponder. 🙂
Em: You're a line or a copy (or are they the same thing) editor, right Em? I know you said that you see the technical errors, but is it really easy to switch off when you're reading for enjoyment purposes only? I'm curious. 🙂
Jen: “If I'd read that book two years ago, I probably would have really liked it but now it feels tired, like an overdone trope, when in fact it probably wasn't when it first came out. So it goes to show that my feelings can change over time.”
I've been thinking about this too, Jen. Not only in relation to my own reading tastes, but to those readers who I've come to know well over the past couple of years. For eg, I remember there was a time when you were unable to engage in D/S or M/S themes, but now look at you go! 🙂
” Like Tam said, I'm more likely to find them really irritating if I'm not enjoying the book either – almost like the errors compound my dislike of the book.”
I'm in total agreement with you there. If I'm reading something I'm not liking very much, then I tend to pick up every little error and get increasingly frustrated with the work.
Ingrid: “Besides English is not my first language so I don't see a lot of errors anyway.”
That's a really interesting point, Ingrid. Question – If you read a review which says that there are a number of technical problems, would you buy it anyway if you thought the story would be something you would enjoy?
Amara: “And I'm a mood reader, a book I love today may not be a book I love next week. I'm a moody one ;)”
You're not the only one. I bounce all over the place in terms of my reading and something that appealed to me a while ago just makes me feel a total lack of interest now.
Eva: “Oh and about what Ingrid said. Overusing “big” words gets bothersome after a while. I do like to improve my vocabulary through reading in English but there's a point when enough is enough. Yes, I get that you have a thesaurus and a dictionary, but like my English teacher once said sometimes using “big” words makes you look stupid instead of smart.”
Yes. This seems to me to come down to a couple of things such as an author using big words in an attempt to cover up the problems of their work or an author who has let their ego influence their writing to the point of being overly complex.
You have to wonder why they can't see that using big words will actually have the affect of making the reader feel stupid for not understanding the words. Not a very good marketing technique to piss off the people meant to be buying your books.
Rhi: “I can forgive a great deal when it comes to technical perfection — if a story tackles obstacles or tracks off into territory that few dare to.”
Indeed. If a story is compelling, any technical issues can be relatively easily dismissed.
*ponders* I wonder what readers mean when they actually say 'I can forgive a lot'. It would be different for everyone I imagine. I see another post in the making. Thanks Rhi!
“Does it truly make the book any less worthy of the five-star rating than the next? Eh.”
Nope, it doesn't. As a number of people have said, moods and tastes can change over time and interpretations can vary. This seems to me to be a perfectly natural part of life. After all, if we all remained in a static bubble, it would be as boring as bat shit.
“Of the one who gives much, much can be forgiven.”
Or something like that.
You're basically writing my posts for me, Rhi. Thank you! <3
I'd start to pay you a commission and everything, but it's the stingy bitch thing I've got going. Sorry! 😛
LOL – I don't take umbrage with providing inspiration or blog fodder. I enjoy reading what you come up with!
Well, naturally you do, Rhi. That's a given. *hair flick*
Kris I don't know. Depends. Things like head hopping doesn't bother me. Misspelled words or grammar errors doesn't either coz I don't always see them.
What does bother me are plot holes because they make me feel like WTF? If the story is engaging, the mc's cute and/or interesting it makes up for a lot of things.
Thanks, Ingrid. 🙂
I do line editing, so I'm supposed to pick up grammatical and other problems. Sometimes it's really hard to try to turn off that kind of concentration, especially if I've been doing intensive editing. I can lessen that kind of concentration, but if I see an error I snap right back into that mode of reading. It's a lot easier for me to get into a book if I'm reading one that's technically sound.
“… but if I see an error I snap right back into that mode of reading…”
Yes, I can imagine that would be difficult, Em, particularly when you have or are in the process of doing a lot of line editing at the same time. Thanks for answering. 🙂