3 Reasons I DNF Fiction Books #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Welcome to another Author Toolbox Blog Hop post!

Confession: I’ve read two books this year. The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, reviewed here, and Dear Evan Hansen, review to come. I’ve also DNF’d two books: Uprooted and Vicious.

Bonus confession, I’m still stalled on my WIP. How long is plotting supposed to take, anyway?

Ever since I gave myself permission to not finish books, I’ve read more. But what makes me give up?

reasons to dnf fiction books

Characters I can’t connect with:

I love character focused stories. I like to feel for them, or relate to who they are, the friends they have, or the actions they take. If I don’t care about the characters I often won’t finish a story.

I’m only two chapters into Behind the Throne by K.B Wagers, and I love the main character. She’s hiding from her family and living as a gunrunner, because she’s a princess, but she doesn’t want to be one. She’s a total bad-ass. I connected to her in the first half a chapter and she made me want to read on. (Thanks to Lightning Ellen for this rec, loving it!).

Behind the Throne K B Wagers

On the flip side, I didn’t like Vicious, by V.E Schwab. Yes, I’m aware this book is super popular, but, like Twilight, I couldn’t get on with the main character. The head hopping in the first chapter nearly made me quit, but I carried on because it’s highly rated. I eventually DNF’ed at page 72.

Characters should be well developed and engaging, but be aware you can’t please everyone. People don’t like every person they meet, so why would they like every main character? Some people love quirky mages, sword-fighters, and dragons. Others hate them. Find your audience, people who love the types of main characters you write, and let them know about your story.

Stories with poor pacing, or where very little happens:

I DNF’ed Uprooted because the main character didn’t make choices, was dragged along by the plot, and even after she was kidnapped and locked in a tower, nothing interesting happened. The pacing was poor, and the plot didn’t build up fast enough to hold my interest.

Ladies Guide to Petticoats and Piracy on the other hand had me hooked with the first line: I have just taken an overly large bite of iced bun when Callum slices his finger off. Something happened in every chapter to move the plot along. It was memorable. Fun. It didn’t get bogged down in description. Each chapter left me dying to know what happened next!

Lady s Guide Petticoats Piracy Cover
Plus, it had dragons. Books with dragons are always a keeper…

Pacing can be down to personal preference, and genre dependant. Some readers love ‘slice of life’ stories, where not much happens but you get an insight into a culture or family. The book I read at Penguin during work experience (200000+ words, not much happened), was published in 2018 and won New York Times Bestseller. The target audience loved it, even if I didn’t!

If fast paced action is expected in your genre, include it, or you may disappoint your readers. If you write slower paced ‘slice of life’ stories, market them to the right audience. Consider your target market and write stories without things that make readers seethe: Like plot holes!

Complicated plots I can’t get my head around, and plot holes:

I like fast paced plots that keep me guessing, but are clear and easy to follow. I like hints to the final solution, and feeling an a-ha moment, like, of course, that was so obvious, why didn’t I see that? I don’t like plot holes, or sudden revelations that weren’t hinted at or made no sense.

I’m still mad at The Flash for writing a time travel plot so complex in season 3 that I spent hours on google trying to make sense of it. I’m still I’m not 100% sure: It feels like the plot was full of holes, and I don’t like being left confused. I haven’t watched or loved the show as much since.

s03e20_The Flash faces Savitar
I mean, I loved the idea of Savitar, but all that time travel stuff? Still not clear how he could exist!

Plot holes can also make me DNF. In Young Sherlock Holmes, Death Cloud, the characters sailed across the English channel in no time. This was jarring: The story’s set in Victorian times, and the journey would’ve taken 20-30 days. (Edit: In my rush to research I picked up on the sail time for the Atlantic Ocean, not the English Channel. I still think the journey was too fast though, and it was followed by ridiculous fight scenes!). It was unrealistic and pulled me from the story. I often DNF books that don’t immerse me, although in this case I finished it as I was 75% done.

Stories should always make sense and keep readers immersed. Don’t make your plot too obvious, but make sure readers can follow what’s happening and are pleasantly surprised, rather than completely flummoxed! Beta readers are great for spotting issues like plot holes.

beta reading

The main thing to remember is not everyone will like your book, but that’s okay because your book isn’t for everyone. Just make sure the people you expect to like your stories, your intended audience, are thrilled with them, and everything will be okay 🙂

scales divider copy

Thanks for reading!

What makes you DNF a book? How many pages do you give a story before you give up? How often do you DNF? (And, for my own sanity, how long does it take you to plot a novel?) Chat in the comments!

Finally, a shout-out to fellow hop friend Jacqui Murray, who released her prehistoric fiction novel on the 7th of March with an epic blog tour! See my post here: Survival of the Fittest Blog Hop or visit Amazon for more details!

This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by Raimey Gallant. Next month I’ll probably focus on marketing. (I have to write a plan for publishing a novel for university, and it’s all I can think about!). To read more posts in the hop, or join, click here, or on the image below:

ATB

Past Posts: MA Creative Writing Posts.
Work experience in Publishing at Penguin Books.
Lessons in Storytelling from TV and Film.

The new hop rules make it easier to participate: You can post every other month, and editors, cover artists, illustrators etc can join in.

37 comments

  1. Oh man, I absolutely loved UPROOTED! I disagree on all your points for disliking it, but, to each her own! I just had to hop in and defend it. I felt the same way you did about another popular book, though: SHADOW AND BONE. Leigh Bardugo’s other series opener, SIX OF CROWS, was amazing though. I don’t think I’ve DNF’ed a book in ages, unless is was indie or self-pubbed. Usually I punish a mediocre book by never reading the sequels…

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the main point I was trying to get at, everyone likes/looks for different things in books, and that’s okay 🙂

      It’s hard being one of the few people who dislikes a popular book, but I try and understand why others like books I dislike that are popular. I’ve heard a lot about Six of Crows but never read it. Can’t remember why, might be one I came across, got excited for, got distracted, and forgot about again.

      I’m DNF’ing a lot lately, mostly because of time. If I read every book I picked up I’d either never get anything done or have to sacrifice gaming or Netflix!

      Like

  2. Those are really good reasons to put a book down. Especially when you’re looking for escape (as anything about dragons would provide) from reality, I too would want to connect with the characters and not be challenged by the plot. I want to enjoy myself!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Escapism is definitely my main reason for reading 😀 I’m much faster to DNF books nowadays, because there’s only so much time in a day and I’d rather focus on what I really like, and having fun of course 🙂

      Like

  3. Everyone has their preferences. I stayed up waaay too late to finish Uprooted. It was the ending that disappointed me, but I am a huge romance fan. The story was originally marketed to me as a romance, soooo… Yeah, didn’t pick up any of her other books. 😁

    The other thing I’ll add that makes me dnf are characters too dumb to live. They make bad choice after bad choice, and you wonder how they can be smart enough to breathe. I like plots where it looks like they’re making good choices, but it turns out they didn’t have the whole story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup, I sometimes wonder if I’m too picky ^^
      I thought Uprooted was romance too, so I may have been disappointed by the ending if I got there!

      I forgot about dumb characters! I’m with you there, if I see a character making stupid choices I’m done. Ooo: I love it when the character thinks they’re making a good choice but it turns out the opposite 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for the shout-out!! I’m so glad you like Behind the Throne. I binge read all four books in the series that are out so far, haha. Anxiously awaiting the fifth one’s release this summer…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m with you on the reasons for DNFing books. I need the characters. I have to connect with them, if I don’t then it’s an issue.And yes, I need things to happen, for the story to always have forward motion, even in the downtime between the action.

    I don’t have a lot of free time for reading, so I want the books I do spend time on to be worthwhile (to me).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never given this much thought to why I DNF books. To be honest, I only started DNFing (is that a verb now?) books recently. Before that, I tried to finish a book No Matter What. I even wrote a blog post about it. Anal, much? Thanks for your viewpoints. Interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I usually put books down if I can’t identify the emotional stakes for the key stakeholders. I’m not a huge face of multiple POV’s, especially when there are more than two. I need action and plot to make me wonder too. Great post today.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I recently DNF a novel that went along for 7 chapters before the MC woke from a dream. The character she’d fallen in love with and agreed to marry wasn’t even real! I was angry.
    It wasn’t until this year that I decided not to finish everything and I’m so glad I did.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Illogic is my biggest reason for DNFing anything. When I do struggle through and finish a book with a lot of illogic, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth that I wasted so much time. I really should have learned my lesson by now. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I got off the “I must finish the book” train several years ago. Too many books, too little time to hang with the wrong crowd. I need to connect with a character or two within the first twenty pages. And if the protagonist does more than one or two “too stupid to live” moves in rapid succession, I’m out.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Maybe we are both in the same target market, because all of these things will put me off a book as well. I usually try to get to the halfway point but if the plot is zooming all over the place giving me whiplash, the characters are running around doing dumb things, and I don’t particularly care what happens to them? DNF. Plot holes I can usually forgive, if I love the characters, but poor pacing (in either direction, too fast, OR too slow) will kill it every time.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So true! People like different things, you just have to find your audience.

    I hate not finishing books, but have come to realize if I don’t enjoy it, I shouldn’t force myself to read it. I don’t like it if I can’t connect with the MC or a slow plot that just seems to drag on. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m realising more and more recently that some things I love, others don’t, and I’m learning to accept that’s how it’ll be with my work too 🙂

      I used to be terrible at leaving anything unfinished, but forcing myself to read books I wasn’t into was slowly sucking the fun out of reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s been a wee while since I didn’t finish a book, mainly since I started reviewing them to be honest, but I did enjoy your reasoning. Looking at it with a view to my own writing, I’m not sure there’s much to be done about the character objections. I can only write the character as I think they should be written and let the reader decide for themselves. The pacing, though, that’s one I can (and think I have to) work on. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t worry too much about characters, those are often based on personal preference anyway, and you should never change them if that’s how you want them to be 🙂
      I tend to only review books I finish, and I rarely finish anything I don’t like so I only write positive reviews. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m getting better and better (or is it worse and worse?) at DNFing books I’m not enjoying. I actually have two on my Kindle at the moment, and both are review copies which is a little awkward. In one case, I find the hero rather boring and don’t know if I care whether he gets together with the heroine or if I’d rather she found someone a little more lively. The other has four main characters, and I only like one of them. Oops.

    And factual errors are certainly something which annoys me … especially now it’s so easy to check things with the internet. (And if the author’s “facts” contradict Wikipedia? I’m more likely to believe Wikipedia.)

    BTW, did you mean the English Channel or the Atlantic Ocean? The English Channel is only 26 miles and (fit) people can swim it in a day, so a boat crossing really would only be a matter of hours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Luckily I’ve not been in a situation where I’ve had review copies I want to DNF. (Although I haven’t had any review copies at all!) I think in that case I might struggle to give up. I’m the same though, if I don’t care about the hero, that’s it!

      I swear I googled it, and it said sailing would take that long, I’m wondering now if I was reading about the wrong stretch of water xD

      Like

  15. I’m entering a new genre and reading a lot to get a feel for it. Oi, the plot holes! The unbelievable actions. If you found a buried metal box that might solve the mystery, why is your attitude, meh, I’ll get around to it, I’m too busy running around making stupid assumptions?
    A long time I read a fule for DNFs-subtract your current age from 100. That’s how many pages you should give a book a chance before saying, nope, I’m out of here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I DNF more when exploring new genres, because I’m still getting a feel for what I like (and don’t!) about them.
      That’s a fun rule, I should give books around 70 pages, and I seem to follow that pattern 🙂

      Like

  16. I’m loving that first sentence to The Lady’s Guide!

    If I have an ARC or a beta manuscript I agreed to read, I will finish it. But if it’s a book I picked up for my own enjoyment, I’ll give it about 60 pages. This is so hard for me because 2019 is the first year I decided I don’t have to finish a book!

    I feel so guilty, but I put down two books this year. One was probably a good book, too, but it was written for a different audience. (High school drama, texting, and homework . . . I’m middle aged!) The other was a romance with a cruel man as the romantic interest. It had “abusive relationship” red flags all over the place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same, it hooked me in so well!

      I think if I received any ARC’s I’d probably commit to finishing them too 🙂 It was hard to DNF at first, but I do feel better for it because I can get on with discovering books I adore 😀 I couldn’t be dealing with cruel romantic interests either, but I’m still partial to high school drama on occasion!

      Like

  17. I totally agree with you on the pacing front; bad pacing KILLS my interest. I think the hardest thing, however, is to not feel guilty about not finishing a book.

    Liked by 1 person

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