Friday, July 18, 2014

DNF: Author Thoughts

Last week, I gave my thoughts on DNF.
This week, I have a couple of authors chiming in. 

I'd like to start off by thanking them for taking the time to fill me in on their opinions of this topic :D  Truly, thank you!

Author R.A. Desilets:

I should start with a question: Do authors have a right to be upset when someone doesn’t finish reading their book? The short answer: We shouldn’t, but how we should feel doesn’t always equate to how we do feel.

As an Author

I have three books out, and so far, I’ve been lucky enough to not have any readers DNF and write about it. But I know it’s coming, looming on the horizon. 

Tenacious authors won’t give up because of one or two bad reviews. And honestly, you can learn a lot about your writing when people have negative things to say. 

Take critique groups: you sit down and hear what you are doing well and what you aren’t. Reviews, on the other hand, are very personal responses from readers, which may or may not apply on a critical level. Readers have a right to their own opinion (even if it does break our little writer heart).

I try to take negative reviews as a learning experience. If someone doesn’t finish my work, I want to ask why. If their review is critical and objective, I can try to learn from it and improve my own writing.

But reviews, for the most part, are for readers, not for authors. Oftentimes, a review is negative for personal reasons, and that is not something an author can change. Readers have a right to express their feelings, just like we have a right to write our books.

It is always my hope that a reader will finish--and if they don’t, it is my hope that they will leave an honest review as to why they put my book down.

As a Reader

I love reading. I average a book a week, all while holding down a full-time job and working on my own books.

As a reader who is an author, I very rarely DNF books. It’s not because I think every book I start should be finished, but more for research purposes. In the last three years, I’ve DNFed two books. One for horrible pacing issues that I couldn’t get past, and one for very generic words with boring descriptions.

The others I wanted to quit for too much exposition, info-dumps, plot twists, and generic writing. I wanted to quit, but I didn’t.

While I believe life is too short to read books you don’t like, I also believe it’s too short not to. As an author, you learn a lot about your own style by discerning what you do and do not like from other books.

For example, we hear “show don’t tell” a lot. I’ve read books like this: “We went to the movies. We bought popcorn and went inside. We sat down together and stuffed our faces. It was fun.” That passage can become: “Our hands grazed as we both reached for the door to the dark theatre. I looked up at him, and our eyes caught. A blush permeated my cheeks.” The latter passage puts us in the moment, making the date feel like a date instead of a laundry list.

I learn these things from reading books that I typically would not finish.

I also read a lot of authors who I love and enjoy. Those are the ones I strive to emulate, and I try to avoid the pitfalls of the others.

Since reading is subjective, my style will not be enjoyed by everyone. This is something that I have come to accept both as a reader and an author. Some people will enjoy the same books I do, others will not. Some readers will enjoy my work, others will not. 

The subjectivity of writing is part of what makes it beautiful.

When readers do stumble across my work, I hope they enjoy the words I’ve put on a page. But I can’t control that, nor should I ever try.

About R.A. Desilets

Rachel Desilets (R. A. Desilets) is the author of YA Satirical Dystopian duet, Hipstopia and The Collapse. She also wrote a children’s adventure/adult humor novelette, My Summer Vacation by Terrance Wade. She’s currently working on Girl Nevermore, a YA Contemporary novel.

You can find her work on her Amazon Author page, and you can connect with her on, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or G+. She enjoys tea, coffee, and warm blankets. Rachel is the self-proclaimed owner of “way too many cats” and currently lives with her husband in Southern California.

Author Robyn Jones

A little while back, a blogger friend of mine emailed me and told me she had to DNF one of my books.

Gasp. I know. Hardcore. I love her honesty. And I wish the news hadn’t sliced right through me, but it did. The truth is, writers know the game. We know it and we put our work out there anyway because a story can’t live without readers. And we can’t stand the thought of our characters not living even when we kill them off bloody. So as a writer and reader, what is my take on DNF’ing a book you ask (not really, but I’ll tell you anyway)?

I almost never DNF a book. And not because I’m a wuss and can’t stand the thought of someone doing the same to my books, but because I’m a moody reader. What works one week, won’t hit me the same way the next week. So I put books on hold, sometimes for a couple years. On the rare occasion I’ve quit (possibly angrily quit), the characters/stories have pissed me off or gone too far or are truly despicable and beyond my powers of rationalizing. One time it was like hate at first sight. The main character chapped my hide in less than three paragraphs and I tell you what, I shut the book, paced my living room, and hit an old favorite just to cleanse my palette.

How about you? Can you walk away from a read that isn’t floating your boat?

About Robyn Jones:

I laugh when people fall down. It's a glitch in my programming, but even my mom has suffered this quirk. I have a BA in Studio Art from the University of Puget Sound. My boys make me laugh every day. I steal pens; I try real hard not to. I collect those free bookmarks at the checkout counter at libraries. I've had more stitches than anyone I know. I love stories; writing them, reading them, watching them. You can email me at


  1. I think it's cool that you included DNFs from an author perspective, too. I agree with R.A. Desilets about learning from books that you want to DNF to grow as a writer. And Robyn makes a great point about cleansing your palette. I've done that before, too. Great post!

  2. Oh my gosh, your gifs are so great! I cracked up reading that someone DNF'd my own book all because of that gif! I agree with R.A. Desilets that an author can grow from constructive criticism and I like how she points out that a review is different than a critique group in that the reader is sharing her personal experience reading your book. I never put it like that in my head. Great post, Jaclyn!!! Happy Friday!

  3. Thank you! I really wanted to hear from that point of view. I agree too that learning from mistakes is very powerful. Also, Robyn being able to go back to books when her mood is a little different is so great.

  4. Hahaha! I couldn't help putting Sir Ian McKellen on there in shock. So glad you liked it. I really appreciate you giving me your two cents for the post :D

  5. I love authors who take bad reviews or DNFs as a learning experience. Not every book is for everyone so we can't be upset when people don't like our writing. Great post.

  6. Exactly. I really appreciate that as well. I've had a few experiences where the authors really wanted to understand what I thought was not good about their stories so they could use the information, but I've also had just one or two who challenged me on anything that I said was bad. Thankfully that doesn't actually happen very often, at least with the authors I've been lucky enough to review for.

  7. You know I have not seen anyone share words from authors on dnf books. I really enjoyed this. And I agree with the reading through, to learn from it. That's what I have been doing. :) And, just because the book didn't work for me doesn't mean it's not for everyone. That's another secret I think some people forget about. Thank you!

  8. I loved that gif, too, lol! But I'm sad your book was DNF'ed, Robyn.


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