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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Curse of DNF

DNF - Did Not Finish

It's a horrible thing to say about a book. After all the hard work and angst and author has put into a piece saying that you couldn't finish reading it sounds cruel. They finished writing the silly thing, the least you could do is slog through the last 90 pages.

Yesterday I came to the horrible realization that my DNF pile was growing, not because the books were bad, but because I simply didn't care. I put the book down and never found the interest to open it back up.

Worse, with most the books in my DNF pile, nothing stands out as a reason why I put the book down. The writing isn't bad. Most of the books have a plot of some kind. I can even name the main character in one or two of them, although there are several where I look at the covers and I'm drawing a blank. That's a bad sign, readers shouldn't be able to put down a book and forget who the main character is after reading several chapters.

These aren't bad books. They don't need to be thrown at the wall and the authors shot for abusing the English language. They aren't books that make me foam at the mouth and rave about research or grammar. They're just MEH books. Ones that didn't catch my fancy.

What Do You Do With MEH Books?

I'm trying to leave honest reviews for books, good karma and all, but what should I do here? Do I say, "DNF, I'm not the right reader for the genre." Or... "DNF, couldn't get into it." which makes it sound like the book was bad. Or do I pick the book back up and soldier on, hoping against all hope that *this* time the book will keep my attention?

What do you do when a book doesn't hold your attention? Tell me, I'm flailing in indecision here. What do I do?


  1. I try to stay far far away from books outside of the genre I enjoy. Especially mystery/thrillers. I just don't have the patience to wait until the last 3 pages of a book to find out the 'who dunnit' (I've been known to read the last chapter of a book first.)

    If you DNFd something I'd just suggest not leaving a review. No use in praising or vilifying something that you couldn't finish :)

    Even if you thought something was awesome you never know what could have happened in the last few chapters you skipped.

    1. These are all genres I like. Some of them are authors I've read before. One is part of a series, I bought the book and I've read the three opening chapters four or five times. I never get past chapter four before setting the book down and forgetting about it.

      Leaving no review may be best. *frets*

  2. I've definitely had this problem over the last year or two. I did a post a while back about what makes me, the former chronic "finisher", stop reading. One of the things on my list was "nothing to get passionate about." And it seems like that's what you're struggling with too. It's so hard to define and it drives me nuts because I want to know WHY Im not compelled to finish (so that I can learn and not do it in my own writing) but it's hard to put my finger on.

    I think the other side of it is that the longer we write, the pickier we get as readers, so we're harder to please. AND my TBR pile is way bigger than it ever was before I was writing seriously. I buy so many books--auto-buy authors, good deals, impulse buys, buying friends' books--not to mention the buttload of freebies I get at conferences. So there's this sense of having so much to read and not wanting to waste time on a book that doesn't absolutely sweep me away. But having said all that, I still feel a twinge of guilt when I DNF for reasons other than crappy writing.

    As for reviews, if I DNFed, I just don't review it publicly. But that's just a personal decision of mine. I don't do negative reviews. If I don't like a book or don't finish, I just move on. I only post about books I adore.

  3. DNF books get put on that shelf in my Goodreads acct, but that's it (and really, it's because I need to move them off my current reads shelf, but I don't want to review any book I didn't finish - doesn't seem fair). No review, no reason why, just shelved. Because the reasons are varied - I have one of Neil Gaiman's books there now, and it has nothing to do with quality (I was quite enjoying it, and still remember the story even now), and everything to do with the fact that reading "literary" writing is work, and my brain just couldn't take it at that time. There are several books there that I didn't care for the writing voice, some I just wasn't drawn into enough to finish, and others where yes, I deemed the writing as "bad" (and I don't finish books that I find painful to read).

    Some of those I might revisit later...which is another reason I don't want to rate or review them. A book I didn't finish last spring might be just what I need six months from then. A story that didn't pull me in at the time might be more intriguing next year. So my DNF shelf isn't really a oubliette so much as a holding spot...

    And yes, I was recently called out by an author for putting one of his books on my DNF shelf this year. Said author probably won't be on my reading list anytime in the near future, because I know if I read and don't review for whatever reason, he'll take it personally (and I won't be revisiting his either). I don't need that kind of pressure when I'm reading a book, dang it.

  4. I've had one book I was asked to review, which after struggling through half of it I eventually contacted the review site and told them I couldn't do it. I put it on my could-not-finish shelf on GR but with the comment that it just wasn't for me - the truth. It was dark, dystopian horror and not my thing at all. Most books I don't like or can't finish I just don't rate or review. I have only one other could-not-finish book on my GR shelf, purely as a reminder not to read it because I really, really disliked it in style, subject, and for the poor editing. I've also had bad books but that already had so many negative reviews I didn't see the point in giving them another. I don't try to force myself to finish a book I don't like - why waste my time? There's plenty of good books out there waiting to be discovered. I prefer not to leave neg reviews simply because I'd rather spend my time raving about good ones.

  5. I don't about reviewing, but generally when things get bad I skim, skim, skim. Sometimes it picks up a few chapters later.

    Moody Writing

  6. If you want to leave a review, I'd go with 'DNF, I'm not the right reader for the genre.' or 'Didn't finish, it wasn't my kind of book' if it is in a genre you generally enjoy.

    But when I don't finish one (which is rare because I'm really picky and read the sample on ebooks, or pick a few pages out to skim in the book store/library), I usually just mention I couldn't get into it, maybe wasn't in the mood for that particular story (Stephen King's 11/22/63 was a DNF for me, and I love King's work!).

  7. I don't review books I don't finish. That's a total of three books ever. I jut don't think it's fair to the author to leave a review for setting that I don't know the beginning, middle, and end to.

    I had an agent email me back in response to a query. She hated my novel. Absolutely hated it. She gave me several reasons including that she had not finished it. Based in her email it seems she didn't get past the first couple of pages, so I disregard it. I feel that book reviews should be the same way except that other people see the ratings (and don't necessarily read the reasoning) which can really screw an author over.

  8. I don't consider myself as having a commitment to any author to finish reading their book, no matter how much hard work went into it, if it isn't holding my interest. There's nothing cruel in it, it's simply a fact of human nature.

    There's an old saying "You can please some of the people..." and in this case the last part applies. No author of any intelligence is going to expect everyone to like his/her book.

    So, if you absolutely have to leave a review, simply state it wasn't your type of book so you found yourself unable to finish it.

    But that leads to the question, why do you have to leave a review? Did you already say you were reading it? If not, no one will know besides yourself that you started it. Is it some compulsion to offer your words of advice to a fellow author? If so, learn to control that impulse.

    If it's a feeling of obligation (as implied by your first paragraph), then you should figure out why you feel that way and decide if it's a good reason to continue feeling that way. Honoring obligations is good, taking on obligations out of a misplaced sense of responsibility isn't good.

    Books that don't hold my attention are taken to the second-hand store, given to friends who expressed an interest, or donated to schools, hospitals, or charity organizations. An e-book will be backed up and the copy on my computer deleted. Someday I might be interested enough to try reading it again.

    But, I won't review the book or offer any comments on it unless asked. Then I will honestly say it wasn't my type of story so I never finished it.