Monday, August 31, 2020

Recognising the signs of a DNF

Book with glasses

I've been DNFing (did not finish) a lot of books lately. A few years ago I wrote about how I struggled with DNFing a book and how conflicted I get about doing it. I'm not sure if much has changed in the intervening years.

When I first started DNFing books, my struggle was how long I kept reading for before I gave up. These days that's partially the case but also more importantly, how I feel about the book I'm reading. Is it drawing me in? Do I feel connected with the characters? Is the reading experience effortless? Do I keep putting the book down and checking social media instead of reading? Am I getting bored? Am I feeling impatient?

Whenever I feel like I'm going to DNF a book, I like to examine my reasons because I will always write a short DNF review. I do not DNF a book on a whim.

Hand print on book

When I read a book, I want the experience to be effortless. I don't want to feel like I am struggling with each paragraph and that it's a slog to get through. I don't want my attention to wander and to start checking social media or getting distracted and wanting to put the book down. And if I put the book down, I want to feel a sense of anticipation about being able to pick the book up again to start reading. I want my reading experience to flow with the words on the page and feel immersed in the world I'm diving into. I need the book to capture and hold my attention so that I keep wanting to read that "one more chapter."

Very often, I start to feel impatient when I am not connected to the characters either because they have characteristics or personalities I do not like or because I can't relate to them. I can always tell when I'm not connected to the characters or the story because I feel like I simply don't care what happens to the hero and the heroine or their journey to their happy ever after. I know it's a terrible thing to say about the characters in a book I'm reading, but if I don't care about them, I'm not going to invest my time and energy into reading them. Sadly, this has been happening quite often.

And I can always tell when I'm struggling with a book that is not engaging me. Simply put, I get bored. I will check social media. Do something else. Even put the book down, and instead of picking it back up to read, I'll do something else like watch a YouTube video. Picking the book up to reread it will become an effort. And then forcing myself to read it IS an effort.

Kids watching video on laptop

If a book engages me, I can get through a book in a day or two, depending on the length of the book. Of course, the longer books will take a few more days to get through. But I know the feeling of enjoying the book I'm reading. I can sit and read for hours on end. I will lose track of time. I will want to read just one more chapter before I put it down and cook dinner. Sometimes, dinner can be late because I'm reading a good book. Steve is quite used to the refrain, "I'll start dinner after I finish this chapter."

Another contributing factor to the number of DNFs I'm having recently is my subscription to Kindle Unlimited. I'm more willing to give up a book that's not grabbing me more quickly and move on to another because I'm borrowing the book, and I can simply return it. The upside is that I'm willing to try a lot more new authors and new stories. I'm willing to go a little or even a lot outside my comfort zone to try new or unusual stories. The downside of that is that it's a pot shot. It can be quite hit or more, and so far, I've found more misses (which I don't mind) than hits, but it is broadening my reading horizons.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I've stopped trying to force myself to finish every book I pick up or feel obligated to do so. I know it's still awful to not finish the book, but my time for reading is limited, and I'd like to enjoy every minute of it. I'm now learning to recognise the signs as early as possible when I encounter a book that's not working for me, and I move on to something else.

Woman holding closed book

Another thing I try to be conscious of is reading according to my mood because I'm more likely to enjoy what I'm reading if I'm in the mood for it. For example, if I'm in the mood for something sweet and romantic, I might pick up a Kandy Shepherd or Liz Fielding Harlequin Romance. If I wanted something paranormal, I might look for something with werewolves, vampires, or fae. I still have quite a few of Amelia Hutchin's backlist in her Fae Chronicles series to get through. And if I'm wanting something sexy, I might pick up a Madison Faye or a BB Hamel. Being in the right mood for what I'm reading ensures that I will more likely enjoy what I'm reading and finish it.

So tell me, do you ever DNF a book? What are your reasons, and how often do you do it?

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  1. I agree that KU makes it easier to DNF.
    I also try hard not to DNF.
    My main reasons for DNF are along the lines of yours-if I really don't care what happens to the characters, I really don't want to spend more time with them. My time is valuable. Also if the blurb is way off from the actual story I might DNF if it turns out to be something I don't care for.
    I also DNF'd one or two that had truly horrendous spelling and grammar errors. I don't think they went past an editor or proofreader.

    1. I did recently DNF a book because it was very poorly edited and formatted. It had so many mistakes that it was hard to actually read the book and I finally gave up. The story itself and the writing weren't great either.