Let’s talk about the DNF today, beloveds…
For those that don’t know, DNF is book-speak for a book that you start and, for whatever reasons of your own, decide not to finish. I’ve been rather outspoken about the fact that I DNF and that I do it quite often, with no absolutely no shame and no apologies for it. Some readers are outspoken for the opposite, that they never DNF a book, no matter what the reason. Other readers/book bloggers I encounter do DNF, but don’t speak about it publicly.
To DNF or not to DNF is a complex thing. There are many, many reasons why I stop reading a book, which I’ll explain below. Generally as a rule I give a book 50 pages to capture my interest and if it fails to do so, I’ll stop reading. These days, however, I find that my 50 page rule has gone wayyy down–hell, it’s 40 pages, in some cases, 25. Sometimes I will review the book here if I got past the halfway mark, but I will not give it a rating. I will certainly tell you why I didn’t like it though.
There’s a couple of factors that make me DNF-friendly, which I have to admit here. For one, I rarely buy books. About 85% of the books I read come from the library, so 86’ing it is no big deal, I just take it back and get another. I also find that I tend to DNF fiction much more often than nonfiction. Probably because it’s so author-driven, while non-fiction–not so much. With NF you are welcome to disagree with the author, skip pages and see if they change their mind. I usually don’t DNF memoirs though.
So here goes…
Top Ten Reasons I DNF (do not finish) a Book
- It’s boring. ‘Nuff said. If I wanted to fall asleep, I’d put on my Sleep Sounds playlist on Spotify. Seriously. I steadfastly maintain that if you are reading for pleasure, it should engage you and make you want to pick it up and keep going. If it’s nothing but a chore to read it, then put it down. Pleasure reading does not = boredom.
- Not in the mood, dawg. Sometimes I will pick up a book, read a few pages, then gauge my feelings. If it’s a nahhhh, then I’ll put it aside. This is not to say that I will never read it again at some other point in time, it just means that I am simply not feeling it in that current moment, right then. I will usually keep these books in my TBR pile but save them for later.
- I don’t get it. I’d rather have bad writing than confusing, incoherent, or just plain weird writing. If I can no longer (or I never did) discern what’s happening, then I’ll leave it in the dust. I don’t have time for code-cracking, it ain’t that deep.
- Large amounts of gratuitous, objectionable content. I don’t necessarily mind sex, drugs, and violence–but there is a point (and I’ve posted on this before) where such scenes just become, well…too much. It’s like a cheap horror film–we know the killer kills with an ax, but do we really need the camera to linger on the severed head for 5 minutes? We get it, he’s dead. Cut to the next shot. More of the same? Well, forget it. I have no interest in being “shocked” into reading further. If ultra-violence is the only rabbit they can pull out of their hat, then they’ve lost me.
- There is NO plot. None whatsoever. Nada. Zilch. Just pages and pages of no action, no character building, no dialogue, no nothing at all. Or there’s pages and pages of all of the things I just mentioned, but it’s a downward spiral into a yawning, mind-numbing void. I would have left this under the label ‘boring,’ but this is so bad it deserves its own category.
- I’m not connecting to the character. This is not the same as not liking a character. There are quite a few book bloggers that say that they will stop reading if they don’t like a character. Nah, I’m not that petty. I can stick through disliking a character’s actions and thoughts, but I can’t stick with one who I don’t find compelling. Strong dislike is a compelling reason to read further, it’s the macaroni to my cheese. It’s kinda like that Morrissey song “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get.” Damn right.
- It’s too familiar, I already know what’s going to happen. The girl dumps the boy, but you know they’ll get back together in the end. Nerd boy falls in love with manic pixie dream girl. An abused wife leaves her husband, but you know he’s not dead, so a showdown will occur, somewhere in the last 50 pages. Do I need to go on? Let’s find more plots here…
- Writing style is too difficult to follow. No capitalization, no quotation marks, heavy use of parentheses, run on sentences, wordsthatruntogether. I know that some authors employ these devices for artistic reasons, but sometimes I just can’t be bothered with trying to decipher between thought and dialogue, which character is which. GTFOH…
- It ain’t gettin read, no matter how hard I try. I tend to read several books at once, so if there is a book lingering in my “currently reading” pile that’s been there for 3 months or more, I will usually extinguish it. It usually means something else has gotten my attention and my own behavior indicates that I’m avoiding it for a reason. Whether or not I come back to it later depends, though if I do, I will usually start the book over again.
- Not my cuppa joe. Sometimes I will stop reading because I just don’t believe I’m the right audience that the book was intended for. It’s not a bad book, it’s just not for me. Therefore my reading it won’t matter, the writer probably ain’t talking to me in the first place. I’m ok with that. So rather than reading it, wasting my time, and being pissed off, I’ll just stop reading it. Blah.
So what do ya’ll think? Do you DNF? Why or why not?