This book should not be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. – Dorothy Parker
Lately, I have hit a series of DNF books. I used to always finish a book if I started reading it, even if I had to skim the boring bits to find out whodunit. Maybe I’m getting less patient as I get older. Life is too short to read bad books.
Note: all these books were fairly popular, so clearly other people liked them a lot. They just didn’t work for me.
Book #1: Category Romance about an arrogant millionaire and a beautiful innocent young woman. (Not usually my cuppa, but it was free and the author is popular. I thought I could study what made her so successful.)
Where I stopped: Page five.
Why I stopped: I loathed both characters from the start. He was domineering to the point of being abusive right in the first paragraph. When he belittled her and ordered her about, she found herself becoming turned on despite (or because?) he was so unpleasant. Get thee both to a therapist.
What might have fixed it: Some redeeming quality, even one little scrap of kindness or courtesy, shown within the first few pages.
Book #2: Self published “lightly paranormal” romantic comedy.
Where I stopped:The Kindle reader was at 15%.
Why I stopped: The heroine herself had no goals. I mean it. No goals at all. This woman didn’t want so much as a drink of water. Random wonderful-but-strange events happened to her, but she didn’t care enough to try to find out if they were connected. She apparently wanted nothing out of life. Why should I care about her life if she didn’t?
What might have fixed it: If the heroine had wanted something, anything. Chuck Wendig wrote a good explanation of why this is important.
Book #3: Traditionally published Inspirational novel
Where I stopped: The Kindle reader was at 13%.
Why I stopped: The writing. It was very awkward.
For example, one sentence described a character prancing across the room while her hair bounced and her beige suit complemented her white teeth.
My problems with this sentence:
1) No grown woman should prance unless she’s doing a My Little Pony impersonation.
2) Even if the woman were doing a My Little Pony impersonation, no sentence should be asked to include the fact that she is prancing while her hair is bouncing and her suit is complementing. It’s way too much action for one poor sentence to bear.
3) When I read that a suit complements something, I assume the writer means the colors were complementary; they didn’t clash. But what clashes with white? Or with beige for that matter? It doesn’t make sense. And who coordinates their clothing with their teeth in the first place? I’ve got to back away from this sentence. It’s driving me crazy.
What might have fixed it: An editor who stood firm when the writer wanted to stet sentences like the above. The original idea was intriguing enough to keep me reading for a few chapters.
I really do want to finish a book when I start reading, but it was useful analyzing why these books didn’t work for me. I’ve written awkward sentences, passive heroines, unlikeable heroes, but it’s easier to see these errors in someone else’s works. Hopefully, this will help me avoid them in the future.
Here’s another writer’s list of reasons why she loathed certain books.
Have you had a DNF book lately? Why did you stop reading?