Sunday, August 10, 2014

13 Question of the Week: How Long Will You Try a Book Before You DNF It?

Hey everyone! Clara Kensie here. A few times a month at Adventures in YA Publishing, I post a question for you and the Adventures in YA team to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers and book lovers: craft, career, reading, books, and more. Join the discussion!

Question of the Week:

DNF (Do Not Finish): How long will you try a book before you DNF it?

DNFing a book: soooo disappointing!
(image courtesy of Katy

Clara Kensie: It kills me to DNF a book, but I don’t want to spend time reading something I don’t enjoy, when there are hundreds of other books in my to-read pile. I don’t have a set “trial period” of reading a specific number of pages before I DNF it. I’ll stop reading a book once I realize I don’t care what happens to the characters, if the plot is too contrived, if it doesn’t make me suspend belief, if it’s poorly written— any reason, really. I recently DNF’d a book after the second chapter because it was confusing and hard to follow. Reading should be fun: an escape, not a struggle. Recently, a friend highly recommended a book to me, a book she loved-loved-loved. I read chapter after chapter, thinking, “The good part must be coming up next.” “Okay, the next part has to be when it gets good.” But the good part never, ever came. That was one book I wish I had DNF’d. But, it made for a great discussion with my friend!

Alyssa Hamilton: I usually read about 150 pages of a book if I'm feeling iffy about it. If by that point I'm not interested in it, I'll put it down. If I am really not feeling it before that point, I'll definitely put it down. I'm not the kind of person who feels overly guilty or bad if I don't finish a book that I've started. Why spend time on something I'm not enjoying, when I have shelves of other books I may love?

Martina Boone: It really depends on the book. I very rarely DNF, but if I do, lately it’s usually on a book I’ve bought because I wanted to buy it to support an author and therefore I try my best to get through it. Obviously, not every book, including mine!, is for every reader. I try to buy at least an ebook for every author I know or whose work I generally enjoy.

Much, much more difficult for me is when I find a book that I was really excited to read because I picked it, because someone recommended it and it sounded exactly up my alley. You know that book, right? You hoard the idea of that book in your heart and you bide your time waiting for the right moment to read it. You settle in with your cup of tea and your snack and you blanket and your cat, and you start to read and . . . Eeeek. It’s okay. Or it’s awful. Or it’s not bad, but it’s not GREAT. I always read those far longer than I should, because I don’t want to let my disappointment color my thinking. Sometimes the writing is brilliant and the concept just doesn’t live up to it, or sometimes the concept is brilliant and the book just missed the opportunities. That’s heartbreaking. HEARTBREAKING. There was a day when I wouldn’t quit reading even then. I’d just slog through my disappointment. Now, I’d rather just part company and keep looking for the books I truly, truly, truly love. There are so many great ones out there!

As for what makes me DNF a book? The above aside, the one thing that’s guaranteed to make me DNF is a story laced with plot holes.

Erin Cashman: I'm in two book groups, which is great, because I read books I would not normally pick, and often love them. I used to finish everything, even if the book became a chore. Now, I give a book fifty pages. If after 50 pages, I'm not looking forward to picking the book up again, I don't. I love a gorgeous setting and well developed characters, but I need to be swept up in a story. I'll overlook some flat writing or dialogue, an undeveloped or unforgettable minor character, but the story has to captivate me for me to keep reading. If it's an author that I love, I will read more of the book before calling it a DNF. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling was one of those books. I was confused when I first started it, but once I sat and read the first 50 pages in one sitting, the characters all became very distinctive, and I loved the book.

Lisa Green: I am definitely ADD and admit I stop reading pretty quickly unless it's a strong recommendation from a trusted friend.

Katharyn Sinelli: Probably the biggest reason I don't finish a book is because I get distracted by another bright and shiny one. Disingenuous dialogue can be off-putting, unless the author has really taken the time to get me invested in the characters. Then I'll buy into a bit of schmaltz.

YOUR TURN: What makes you DNF a book? How long will you try a book before you give up on it?


  1. I hate DNFing as well (and don't tell my mom I do or she'll be SO disappointed!). But life's short and there are so many good books out there. I recently dropped a book after about 3 pages. The dialogue was so stilted I couldn't keep going. Another I dropped because the entire first chapter was contrived backstory. Generally if I care about the characters at all, I'll finish it!

  2. It really depends. I'm mostly with Katharyn. If another book comes along and I'm dying to read it, I'll often leave a book aside with the best of intentions to return, but sometimes it's years before I give it another chance. I've been trying to read WHITE TEETH for around ten years. My next attempt will be my fourth (yes, I'm determined to finish it one day). Occasionally, I'll come across a book that I really can't stand and I'll put it aside, but this is very rare because I'll usually force myself through those and then dissect it later. I've found reading the occasional stinker has helped improve my writing (what not to do...)

  3. I usually try to finish a book, because I'm already very picky--I only get books I'm pretty sure I'll like!

    Poor writing is a turn off, but if there's a good story or interesting characters in a plight, I'll endure the writing. What kills me is a book starting with bored characters. Or characters whose stakes are too small. I put down a book after a character went through a nifty near death adventure, then whined afterward that he had been afraid. I rolled my eyes so hard that they got stuck, and I couldn't read anymore. ;-)

  4. I usually stick with the book and then decide why I didn't like it, if it could help me improve my writing, and what I can learn from it. Sometimes it's a chore, but I get through it.

  5. It kills me to DNF a book, but as someone also said, life is too short to struggle through a book when you have a bunch waiting on your kindle . I usually know by the first chapter if the book grabs me enough to stay. If I put it down and can't remember what the heck I just read or if I don't find myself thinking about the book after I put it down, I know it's time to set it aside. Sometimes it's not the book, it's me.

    The worst DNf's are the ones that friends (and everyone in the known universe )rave about. I've tried reading On theJellicoe Road 4 times in three years and I have no idea what it's about. I WANT to love it. I just don't, and that makes me sad.

  6. I seldom DNF a book. If I am reading it for review, I will slog through every page, but if I'm reading it for me, I will give up if the first fifty pages haven't grabbed me.

  7. I rarely ever DNF a book. Granted, sometimes I start to skim the second half if I've given it a really good shot of 150-200 pages but I'm still having a hard time fully immersing myself, because I want to know how the author ends it.

    Then there are the occasional books I've only picked up because they won a major award, even if it doesn't sound like something I would normally pick up, and I feel a bit obligated to try it and see why it won - and then I've been blown away by how much I loved it. That happened to me with WHERE THINGS CAME BACK by John Cory Whaley, Printz 2012 winner. The cover is terrible, too, but, oh man, I ended up LOVING that book. So unique, so unusual, so real, so heartbreaking, so fulfilling. I could NOT put it down. Literally read it in one city on a car trip. I also wasn't sure about CHIME by Franny Billingsly and I LOVED that book, too. I bow down to Franny's sheer brilliance. These titles taught me the lesson that you just never know what gem is hidden between the pages of a book you might think is just "meh".

  8. I've only DNF'd one book and it was a sequel. I LOVED the first book and just expected the sequel to be fantastic, which turned out to not be the case. I gave it about 200 pages and had to stop because there was just too much info dump and not enough story.

  9. I've only DFN'd one book. I always try to power through. Even that book still sits on my shelf with the wilted bookmark waiting for me.

  10. I never used to DNF a book but I do now because as said, there a re lots of other fabulous books put there. I have a few books on my kindle that I haven't finished and the most common reason is that I don't care what happens to the characters. But I do hate when that happens because I really want to love every book I read. Ah, well.

  11. I try not to DNF, but it tends to happen in one of two ways. A) Something happens that I hate so much I can finally ragequit the book. B) I set the book down to do something and when I come back to it I realize I don't have the desire to ever finish it. I didn't use to DNF anything, but learning to do it and do it more often has made me a happier reader.

  12. I've actually changed a LOT with this over the years. I used to push myself through every book I picked up, whether I liked it or not. Over time, with my own getting shorter and shorter and my TBR getting longer and longer, I will no longer read books which don't grab me right away unless, perhaps, it comes highly recommended. If I don't take to the voice of the book or care about the characters right away, I don't want to waste that many hours reading it. I no longer need to read bad writing or something that doesn't interest me so I can learn what NOT to do when I write. Been there, done that. Life is too short for more :)

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