Abandon Ship: A Step-By-Step Guide To Not Finishing Books

Abandon Ship: A Step-By Step Guide To Not Finishing Books

I was on holidays last week. You know this, because I put up a horrible gloating post with photographs indicating the niceness of the holiday scenery, and the depths of my nasty character.

While I was away, I abandoned a book I’d been trying to read for about six months. I’m not going to tell you what it was, because this isn’t about author shaming, and that particular author is too successful anyway to care. But for the first time in my life, I abandoned a book more than two thirds the way through.

The notion seemed ridiculous. Surely, having got that far, I could have persevered? Especially when the damned thing had been sitting on my bedside locker for six months, having been started twice, but shortly thereafter also put down twice, in favour of brighter and shinier books which I duly finished in the meantime, thinking “Yerrah, I’ll finish that one on my holidays”.

I was reclining by the water’s edge (I mean right by the water’s edge – or edges, in fact, as I lay bang in between the warmly lapping sea and the cool, refreshing swimming pool. Just sayin’) when I finally asked a friend when she would abandon ship, if a book just wasn’t doing it for her. She asked me what I thought was wrong with what I was reading. I began to say that the story had never gone in the direction I was expecting, and as time went on it went further and further into territory which didn’t entertain either me or my imagination. But before I even finished the sentence, I’d already shut it and dumped it.

So without further ado (or boasting – by the way, it really was a lovely holiday, did I tell you? Just glorious) here is my Ultimate Guide To Not Finishing A Book. Click to embiggen.

Abandon Ship: A Step-By-Step Guide To Not Finishing A Book

Click for big. Abandon books at will. You have the power.

Note: This aims to aid you in the making of your decision between Chapters 1 and 3, because terrible writing and/or editing should mean it’s already been shut and dumped before the end of the first chapter. You’re welcome.

IN OTHER NEWS, I have made the final of the Blog Awards Ireland 2015, in the Best Art & Culture Blog category! Psyched I am to have made it! Winners will be announced at a bash on October 22nd, for which I made sure to secure my ticket post-haste. And it’s thanks to all you lovely people for voting, which I totally didn’t deserve, seeing as I’ve become insufferable for talking about my holiday, which was very nice indeed. Did I tell you?

  71 comments for “Abandon Ship: A Step-By-Step Guide To Not Finishing Books

  1. October 1, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Reblogged this on Jan Hawke INKorporated and commented:
    Well – I’ve been guilty of literary fiction (‘cos I just couldn’t find another label to lumber it with) but I never expected this booster… 😛 Arch-graph architect Tara Sparling does it yet again with the ‘Abandon Ship Guide to Not Finishing Books’ – we’ve all been there! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 1, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      And will be there again, no doubt, Jan, which is why I had to chart this for myself. I’m getting more and more addled as the minutes go by…


    • October 1, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      When the going gets tough, the tough have produced Literary Fiction. 😉 I’ve forgotten: do you “Fuse” too?

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 1, 2015 at 11:06 pm

        I think to fuse, you have to pinpoint one or more genres in the first place! As the farmer said at the speed dating session, I’m still looking.


        • October 2, 2015 at 3:49 pm

          In Fusion Fiction, it’s not hard to find the genres, it’s that there are so many of them (in my case, at least 6). When all of the genres are equally descriptive, but a distributor or retailer will allot only one or two (although the BISAC inventors say that three or more codes can be used), what’s an author to do? We need Fusion Fiction to become the accepted way to classify novels that cover more territory than even the time-honored tag of Literary Fiction can adequately describe.


          • October 2, 2015 at 4:11 pm

            As a guide for readers, it’s no more descriptive than literary fiction, though, is it? Might defeat the purpose somewhat. Certainly is a problem!


            • October 2, 2015 at 4:27 pm

              The general category is Fusion Fiction, just to let readers know that more than one genre is involved. A label might look like FUSION FICTION: Contemporary Romance / Literary / Ghost Story


  2. October 1, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Congrats Tara, well deserved, Ill be rooting for ya 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 1, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks Ed – and you too, congratulations on being a Best Photo Blog finalist – bloomin’ tough category – rooting for you too! Are you going?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ali Isaac
    October 1, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Congratulations, Tara! And good luck for the big night.

    Looking at this post, and your chart in particular, I can see you are in need of a big night out. In fact, you really should get out more. You clearly have way too much time on your hands. And if you’d like to fill it productively, I can suggest some proper good books written by Indies, if you’re interested.

    Just sayin… 😁

    Liked by 4 people

    • October 1, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      I’ll need all the luck on the night, Ali, no messing. It’s a weird category – so wide, so diverse, and I really can’t understand how some such as yourself aren’t there, let alone how I’m there. You wouldn’t have a clue what they’re looking for, and I’m just happy at this stage to be a finalist at all. Looking forward to meeting other bloggers on the night and having a nice time. You’re right, I do need a night out. I haven’t been the same since those conversations with my arse.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ali Isaac
        October 1, 2015 at 2:48 pm

        Lol! Well dont let it talk you into anything on the night! I’m still recovering from the 80s look from last years event!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Ben
    October 1, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Congrats. And loved the graphic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 1, 2015 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks, Ben. I can always cheer myself up with a good old graphic, and this blog has been crying out for a flowchart for years, the lack of them was quite embarrassing actually.


  5. October 1, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Great graphic! I’m surprised you didn’t mention the holiday, though. How was it, anyway?

    Say, I’ll be in your neck of the woods next week (Dublin, Thursday, one night only). Assuming business lets me, any chance you’ll be around? Ali might join us, and you can show us your holiday photos.

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 1, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      No way!! Fo’ real?! That’s a bit mad seeing as I was on your sovereign turf only last week! I really do hope I am here, Nick. There’s a small chance I have to take a trip that day – can we keep each other posted on FB maybe? – but if I’m here, I’d love to meet up. Only to show you my 300-image slideshow, of course, because I really did have a great holiday – did I tell you?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. October 1, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Fair play on making the finals, Tara. No better woman. Or man. Well, hopefully.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 1, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      I made my decision on that a long time ago, Tenderness. The folks around me just gotta live with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. October 1, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Life is too short to read bad books. I live by Nancy Pearl’s rule of 50 https://nancypearlbooks.wordpress.com/pearlisms/

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 1, 2015 at 11:05 pm

      Yes, I’m familiar with those pearls of wisdom… If you’ll forgive the pun!


  8. October 1, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Do you realise you’ve inadvertently given away the secret that guarantees a literary agent will read a speculative manuscript. Write literary fiction about an annoying narrator. The lines lead to ‘tough, keep reading.’ (If I were you I’d copyright that diagram pronto and license the technique, except to me ‘cos I found it…)

    And congratulations on the finalism. If the prize is a holiday you’ll have to tell us where so that we can all pray for rain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2015 at 12:00 am

      Well, I suppose you can’t fit everything into a flowchart… seeing as the only literary fiction I read tends to have won a few prizes, I tend to persevere in the belief it’ll pay off eventually. In a more general sense it’s about as flawed as a lace umbrella. Seeing as I’ve now pointed out its deficiencies, how d’you feel now about that licence?

      Thanks also for your sentimental response to my good fortune. So far as I know the prize (which I don’t believe for a second I’ll get) is lacking a sponsor. I’m content with simple adulation from the likes of your good self for getting this far.

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 2, 2015 at 10:24 am

        The license still sounds lucrative. Microsoft Windows is even more flawed, but didn’t stop Bill Gates becoming a trillionaire. (Just don’t tell everyone it’s flawed. I won’t if you don’t.)

        You know my adulation is unconditional, but if/when you do win the prize remember to tell the audience my books are available on all leading internet ebook sales platforms.

        Liked by 1 person

        • October 2, 2015 at 11:38 am

          Okay, Chris, I’ll do my best. But I am definitely not doing that promotional thing with the mustard again. Not after the last time.

          Sigh. Unconditional adulation can be SO exhausting.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Todd Duffey Writes on Things
    October 1, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    I have abandoned books multiple times and I’m so happy to know that someone else does it, too! Kudos to you! It’s about feeling comfortable enough in your own skin to know what’s important to you. All things are not important to all people. Hence the internet! Way to go! And thank you for opening up about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2015 at 12:02 am

      Thanks, Todd. I do tend to rant quite a bit, so I don’t feel I’m laying myself too bare. To do that, I’d have to actually talk about myself, which is a horror I’m reserving for the main apocalypse.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. October 1, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    First, Congrats on making the final! Second, your graphic is hysterical. What? Literary fiction gets a pass? Ulysses has its own category? Ha ha. I rarely abandon a book, but your decision chart will come in handy when I’m on the edge. 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2015 at 12:05 am

      Thanks, Diana… The pass on literary fiction has its own metaphorical tongue firmly in cheek. And don’t forget how close the edge can be… Sometimes, for me, it’s only the other side of my knees. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  11. October 1, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    I rarely *intentionally* abandon a book, but there are plenty I’ve set down and never got around to picking up again. God, even my approach to reading is passive-aggressive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2015 at 12:06 am

      If you ever start a cult for passive-aggressive readers, I want in. Hope that’s okay.

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 2, 2015 at 1:50 am

        I am probably too lazy and uncharismatic to make a good cult leader. I could start a book club, though. We would read only books with annoying narrators and nonsensical plots, and then our meetings would be discussions of why we didn’t finish them.

        Liked by 1 person

        • October 2, 2015 at 9:03 am

          Why not combine the two and start a book cult, Bethany? C’mon. It’ll be fun. Promise.

          Liked by 1 person

          • October 2, 2015 at 1:14 pm

            A book cult sounds okay. Less blood sacrifice, more snarking about authors’ self-insert characters and plot holes.

            Liked by 1 person

  12. October 1, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Since we converted the fireplace to gas, I find I throw less books into the grate. I might unconvert (no there is no such word).

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2015 at 12:08 am

      Isn’t that terribly unfulfilling, Conor? I couldn’t get through the week without burning something. I mean, I don’t even have a fireplace, but I’m on first-name terms with the local fire brigade all the same. There are ways, is all I’m saying.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. October 1, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    I really needed this chart a month ago. I read the first book in a cute looking fantasy series, and thought it was cute, but not painfully so. Being in that sort of mood, I picked up the second book and was being nicely led along until the grave and unpopular “something ridiculous” happened. Notwithstanding Harry Potter’s heroics in similar circumstances, a trainee witch decided to solve a problem on her own, not to bother the eminently qualified experts in her immediate vicinity to take over. Such arrant stupidity can be tolerated once perhaps in a YA book but when every apprentice witch or wizard pulls a “Harry Potter” on me, I stop reading the book. None of them are as good as the HP franchise, and the remainder of my life is too short to waste time on immature witches and wizards who are too stupid to live. The most annoying part is that there’s a third book in the series which means she survived and I just don’t care to know how.

    Congrats on the finals!

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2015 at 12:12 am

      Perhaps you could write some anti-fan-fiction – I dunno, call it correctional fiction? – and kill her off, once and for all. Alternatively, you could write a YA book with an adult hero/ine and really mess with people’s heads!!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. October 1, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    I shall copy the chart and keep it under my pillow.


    • October 2, 2015 at 12:13 am

      I’m very flattered, Hilary, but it might be more useful if you make ten copies and rip them up to make hedgehog bedding. Just a thought.


  15. October 2, 2015 at 5:52 am

    I usually abandon books, whenever I don’t want it to end. I hate getting to tje last pages, if I really enjoyed the read so far. It’s a bit like having to let go. So I put it to the side until either I forget to finish it or curiosity gets the upper hand and I finish. The older I get, the more I forget. Still love the read, though, even if the final outcome passes me by.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2015 at 9:05 am

      But does that not mean you spend your life in perpetual wonderment?! That’d kill me. On the plus side, I suppose it’s one way of knowing with utmost finality how it all ends.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. October 2, 2015 at 10:30 am

    I used to always finish a book no matter how much I hated it but now I think life’s too short!
    Did you have a nice holiday? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2015 at 11:37 am

      I did, Donna, you’re so kind to ask – as you know, I don’t like to just blurt these things out 😀 And whatever about life, holidays are definitely too short to finish a mediocre book…

      Liked by 1 person

  17. October 2, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Congrats on reaching finals Tara. Best of luck on the night. ‘fraid I only made it halfway through the chart. It looks like it has so many possible endings that I lost my nerve!

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Seems you get the prize, Adrian! It takes true grit to not finish a chart about not finishing things… my job here is done.


  18. October 2, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    I must say that I rarely abandon books but do agree that some possibly should be. In that case what I usually do is speed up so I can finish and sit them aside and get onto something better. Strangely and I don’t know if this is just me but the books that tend to bore me seem to be those that have been literary masterpieces a couple of which jump to mind. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. He got nominated for a nobel prize for that one but I just found it dull (a list of excuses for bad behaviour). Sartre’s Iron In the Soul (another nobel winner) Benford’s; Tides of light (won so many hugo, nebula and writers guild awards, that they were hard to count but) was mind bendingly dull. So perhaps it is just me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      I don’t think it’s just you at all – I’m very much the same. I love literary fiction, but like it to come with a prize-tag or recognised recommendation of some sort, so at least I can commit to taking a dip in its sometimes choppy waters. It doesn’t always work out, but you can’t please everybody, and I’d much rather be bored by lauded works of literary genius than irritated by poorly constructed gurglings which were categorised as literary fiction by someone with more ambition than talent.


  19. October 2, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    I god I’d better laugh or else I’ll cry…:O

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 2, 2015 at 10:28 pm

      Why not take a leaf out of my book – no pun intended – and do both, until the confusion makes you hungry?


  20. October 3, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    I must print that chart off and put it on the ceiling above my bed. There’s no room anywhere else and I do spend a lot of time reading in bed. Anyway, the mirror’s been taken down – it’s not an attractive look when you get to my age – and I need something to cover up the marks it left behind.

    Oh, and don’t forget to let us know when you’re on holiday again, will you?

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 3, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      I won’t, Graeme, I promise. Next time I even pass within a mile of the airport I’ll be sure to tweet it. And I’m most grateful for the insight into your bedroom. Have you anything I can look up on Instagram?

      Liked by 1 person

  21. October 5, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Best wishes on October 22nd at the Bash, well deserved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 5, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks, C.J. I’m happy just to be a finalist. It’s a tough category in the normal course of things but they’ve amalgamated a few categories this year and you couldn’t pay me to judge it!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. October 5, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Congratulations on making the final. Now fingers crossed for you winning.

    I rarely abandon books. Those I do abandon I do without any regrets – too many other good books worth reading that appeal. There are a few exceptions. Somewhere I acquired an omnibus edition of books by Virginia Woolf. I have started racing it several times over many years but gave up. During the summer in desperation for something to read I picked it up again. And guess what! I’m actually enjoying it. Yes, bits annoy me – very London centric, but I’m appreciating the sharp eye with which it is written, the little everyday things that often define her characters, and how, to me, she has caught much of the atmosphere of the period. So sometimes, as your chart indicates, you need to stick with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 5, 2015 at 11:22 pm

      I had a couple of books like that, Dorothy, and if I hadn’t persevered my life would have been all the poorer for it. Very good point. And thank you for the good wishes.


  23. October 5, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    I never leave a book unfinished. It is an affliction. Life is too short. Who can I see about this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 5, 2015 at 11:26 pm

      Oh, dear. Sounds like you have a terrible dose. You need to see your local librarian immediately, and check out a book which has to be returned within 30 minutes on pain of social death. That’ll learn you.


  24. October 5, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Tara, first well done on making the Finals and don’t be too ‘umble!
    Oh the graphic had me flowing and glowing as I’m a mistress at abandoning ship. Life’s definitely too short to waste on stuff that bores the pants off ya and also too short, given all the great stuff that IS out there. Each to his/her own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 5, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      Exactly. Except when their own isn’t mine, etc. And thanks for the encouragement – I might trial insufferable egotism for a while and see how that goes. Or maybe not!!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. November 13, 2015 at 9:40 am

    I am printing this out to give to my friend who persisted in reading a book they disliked… and moaned about while doing it.
    I’ve been relying on the ‘am I bored’ bit only. This may explain why my reading has drifted away from literary fiction.


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