I remember the first time I saw the acronym in a Twitter conversation between an editor and an author. I politely intruded to ask what it meant.
Did. Not. Finish.
What? Read a book and not finish it? Back then, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the concept. I was fairly new to the romance genre at the time and was thoroughly enjoying everything I was reading. Prior to that, my love of reading had taken a back seat to my life as a working mom and a visually impaired person who struggled to read small print. Then came the Kindle and my reading addiction kicked into high gear. Not finish a book? Perish the thought! These days I’m an avid reader and more than one book has moved to my DNF list. In the last six months, I’ve had two solid DNFs and a few books that I’ve set aside to come back to with a fresh perspective.
Making the decision not to finish a book does not come easily to me. As a writer, I know the author has poured their heart and soul into the creation of the story. I really want to respect their efforts, but if I’m halfway through a book and every time a main character appears on the page, I want to slap him or her, it’s probably better for me to put the book down.
I should clarify that I’ve completed books that have made me angry. It’s not a different perspective that makes me put a book down, it is usually characters that whine or plot lines that are clichéd or make no sense to me that make me want to throw my Kindle across the room.
When I looked at the titles I put down, there’s no rhyme or reason. There were books by traditionally published authors, and by indies, books by established authors and newbies alike. I haven’t finished books from authors that I’ve read before and authors that are new to me. As a writer this diversity interests me. I’ll admit, I’m much more likely to give an author I’ve read before a another chance after a DNF as opposed to a new-to-me author. I have to remind myself that you can’t please everyone all the time and the book I chose from a new-to-me author might just have been a blip on the backlist. I try hard to really give a book a fair shake. Before I put it down, I will usually come back to a book once or twice before I finally say enough is enough, I’m not finishing this one.
Most of my book recommendations come from trusted sources on Twitter. In general, when I buy books, I don’t look at reviews. I might look at how many stars a book has, but I typically read the description and if that appeals, I’ll download a sample. If I like the sample, I’ll buy the book. if I REALLY like the book, I’ll write a review.
If I do abandon a book THEN I will check out the reviews. Most of the time, others have encountered the same frustrations I have with a story. That always makes me feel better “Whew, it’s not just me.” Without fail a book that has driven me crazy, makes someone else deliriously happy. This phenomena actually makes me happy. I truly appreciate that there are different strokes for different folks. It gives me hope that when I finish my novel and when it gets published (power of positive thinking FTW), there will be people who hate my story, but hopefully there will be people who love it too.
I always feel crazy guilty when I don’t finish a book, (thus the multiple attempts), but I have to remind myself that just like life is too short to drink bad rum, it’s too short to waste time on books that frustrate me.
Sometimes I will FORCE myself to finish a book, but when I do that it is a conscious decision. I have a pad of paper beside me and I’m taking notes on what I think the author did wrong or the things about the story that were making me nuts. Thus making my torture an educational experience.
Do you finish all the books you start?
Do you finish most of what you start?
Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. You can find her on Twitter @Fearless. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com and she is a regular contributor to the Concord Monitor. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.