There is lots of good writing out there to be had, but have you ever been really frustrated with something in a story or novel. I think what bothers me the most is padding. Where it seems like the author is trying to fill out a word count by putting in stuff that doesn't move the story forward. When I come across this I start skipping paragraphs. If it gets really bad I skip pages and don't lose any of the plot.
I don't mind the occasional extraneous datum in a story, but I dislike padding or copious information that does nothing for the plot. Some of my favourite novels are only a hundred or so pages long: Stableford's Hooded Swan stories and M John Harrisons Centauri Device for example. Characterisation and plot or worth more in a story than irrelevant details about the world they inhabit.
It's a good question but I find it quite hard to answer because I find that just as I'll be despairing about a feature of one book, like padding and overblown over-the-top descriptions of scene, I suddenly find that I really enjoy what is basically exactly the same feature in another one, but done really well so that it feels like close attention to detail and the rich drawing of scenes. But with a few notable exceptions (like John Kessel) it can really get my goat when a practising academic and professor of literature picks up the latest fashion in critical theory and then tries to dress it up (very badly, like a pig in knickers wearing a bit of lippy) in a 'clever' novel - some of that stuff (especially the ones with a postmodern slant) can be beyond execrable: Ali Smith's 'The Accidental' is such a laughable heap of sh*te I almost couldn't believe it had got published. But if we're speaking about Fantasy fiction, I cringe when I come across a 'comedy' scene (usually involving 'cutesy' dwarves or gnomes) which are only funny because the author has written down on the page 'this is funny' (there was a desperately cheesy scene of just this type in Terry Brooks's 'Magic Kingdom for Sale - SOLD!' that makes me wince just recalling it). I also tend to get a bit bored by a lot of over-detailed feasting scenes that seem to be recreating the honey and clotted really cream scenes from 'The Hobbit' but which otherwise don't seem to have anything to do with the story - in the first of the 'Deeds of Paksenarrion' novels there's to my mind too many overlong descriptions of just about every kind of food imaginable from apples to roast pork in gravy to cakes made in the shape of castles (which is only relevant to the plot a fraction of the time).
Really I don't mind about filler in a book because it makes me feel kinda smart when I'm able to browse over a few pages of filler, landing on substance paragraphs. I don't like to read a story or book and then the last page is some cliche ending. If I'm investing my time in a book/story - give me really good ending.
The expression regarding books on Zen "It ain't Zen if its long" hold for me in reading. For the most partI like short stories that grab my attention and then leave me screaming for more, or why or just thinking about it for, in some cases, literally years. I too pass on padded pages. And if it appears that the story is going to be all that, I read the last chapter to see if it might be worth slogging through to see how the author got to the finish line and did not DNF.
Long, formula driven, stories as in the Hardy Boys for Men type, or on-going Arial Combat on Broom books (that's just gotta hurt,)just bore me to tears after the first one.
Also, unnecessary sequels.
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