Happy Friday and happy April, everyone. Spring has finally sprung and everything is in bloom, including my allergies. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been downright miserable for these past few weeks. I’ve got deadlines to meet and trying to write while my mind is shrouded in fog has been challenging. But despite my struggles, I’ve still managed to make some headway on revisions and my other writing projects. It’s been a slow process, but some progress is better than none.
But enough bitching about that. It’s time to move on and bitch about something else—my DNF (Did Not Finish) pile. I might’ve touched on this topic before, but since I’ve been seeing some not-so-hot takes, I figured it was time to revisit it. Today, I’m going to talk about how and why a book gets tossed in my DNF pile. So grab those drinks and let’s get started.
From Love to Hate: A DNF Story
I’m at the bookstore and I find a book I think I’m going to love. The cover is gorgeous, the premise sounds promising, and the first few pages pull me in. It’s exactly the new read I’ve been looking for, so I buy it.
Excited, I pour myself a glass of wine, curl up under my favorite blanket, and dive right into my new book. The opening chapters suck me in, but the further I go, the less engaged I am. In fact, it’s a struggle to keep turning those pages. But I’m a stubborn one, so I keep reading, hoping the story will get better, but it never does. It only gets worse. By the time I hit the halfway point, I cut my losses and toss the book into my DNF pile. So how does a book with so much potential get discarded? Check out my reasons below.
Five Reasons I DNF A Book
1. No Connection with The Characters. Characters are the heart and soul of a story. They’re the reason I read in the first place; it’s their journey I’m invested in. If the main characters fall flat, so does the story. It doesn’t matter how thrilling the plot is, it doesn’t matter how intricate the world building is, or how pretty the prose is, if I can’t connect with the characters, the book ends up in the DNF pile.
Now, I don’t have to like a character to connect with them, but I do need to relate to them. I need to sympathize with them and their plight. I need to know what’s driving their behavior and their actions. I need to understand the reasons behind their motives and goals. It’s that understanding that leads to sympathy. It’s that understanding that allows me not only to connect with the characters, but to care about them and to root for them as well.
There’s so much more to cover with this topic than what I’ve just mentioned, but I’ll save the details for a future blog post.
2. No Editing and/or Poor Editing. If your book reads like a rough draft, it’s going right back to where it came from—or it’s going in the trash where it belongs. Grammar and spelling errors distract from a story, especially if the pages are littered with them.
This may seem harsh, but most readers don’t care about why you didn’t hire an editor; they’ll just know you didn’t. Being an indie author does not give you a free pass to skimp on editing and publish a substandard book filled with errors. Readers spend their hard-earned cash on your books. Not only do they want a quality story, but they expect one as well. As an author it is your job to deliver, and if you fail, you fail the reader. Give readers the quality books they want and deserve, and you’ll get the praise that you want and deserve.
3. Plot Holes and Character Inconsistencies. Nothing makes me want to bang my head against the wall more than a story filled with plot holes and contradictions. In order for me to enjoy a book, the story needs to make sense. It needs to flow through all the twists, turns, ups, and downs. It needs to be a cohesive whole. If the entire plot can be resolved within the very first chapter and the author never addresses it, I’m going to DNF the fucking book.
Same goes for characters. If a character has a personality transplant, or several of them without explanation, the book will get tossed in the DNF pile.
4. Poor Pacing. As a reader, I enjoy stories with varied pacing. If a book is fast-paced and all action, I’m probably going to DNF it, especially if I’m unfamiliar with the author.
I recently struggled to get through a book that was almost all non-stop action for three-quarters of the story. It was mentally exhausting. I found myself skipping pages and skimming chapters just to get through it. The struggle to finish that book was beyond real. I only finished it because it was part of a series and I was familiar with the author. Had the book not met either of the criteria, it would’ve been a DNF.
The same goes for slow-paced books. Books with long, sluggish chapters that are filled with info dumps, exposition, and backstory are boring. If your book has the same effect on me as Benadryl or NyQuil, I’m going to toss it in the DNF pile.
5. Problematic Tropes, Plots, and/or Characters. If a book has toxic characters, tropes, and storylines, it’s an automatic DNF. I don’t want to read about some high school teenager falling in love with a thirty-year-old. I don’t want to read about someone falling in love with their abuser or rapist. I don’t want to read about incest. And I don’t want to read a book that is filled with harmful and hateful slurs.
Now, I understand some characters are repulsive, bigoted pieces of shit, but characters don’t need to use harmful slurs to get that message across.
I’ll hear writers use the excuse, “I can’t control what my characters say.” I get that. As a writer, I can’t control what my characters say either, but I can control what makes it onto the page. I’m the one writing their story. My characters don’t magically leap out of my head and into my chair and type their own book. That’s not how it works. I write what I see and I write what I hear. In the end, I’m the one who decides what makes the cut.
Ryan’s character blog is up, feel free to give it a read. Luke’s interview snippet has been posted; just click on the Extras tab and go to the Character Interviews section.
I’ve also posted Karina’s playlist under the Songs section. You can also click on the Spotify icon on the top of my website if you want to give her playlist a listen. I will be uploading new playlists over the next few months, so keep your eyes peeled for those.
My next writing life blog will be on Friday, May 7th. The next character blog will be Ash’s and that will be posted on Friday, May 28th and Holly’s interview snippet will be posted by the end of this month. That is all I have for you today. As always, stay safe and stay healthy.