DD is for DNF

DNF: Did Not Finish. I suppose this is the acronym that is the bane of all authors.

W-what? Why didn’t they finish the book?

Although I’ve never received a DNF—not because my books are that good, I’ve actually never published anything—I imagine it would feel a little like being told your baby has a disease. Yes, to an author, the book is her baby. After all, she labored long and hard to give birth to it. She may stare at the letters in horror praying the disease doesn’t spread.

Will more DNFs appear? Is it {gasp!} terminal? Will the book be plagued with DNFs until she’s on her deathbed, gasping for her last breath?

The author may check her vitals constantly praying for 4 and 5 star reviews to overcome the threat of death. Most often there’s no reason given for a review marked DNF. There are only those three little letters, attached to a one-star rating, leaving the author to wonder if DNF will lead to DNR, then DOA and finally, RIP. 

If this happens, one can only find comfort in the words from those who knew her best:

“I remember when I first saw her. I loved the outfit she was wearing. She was so stunning I just had to introduce myself.”

“I still recall the night we met. We curled up by the fireplace and stayed up all night long.”

“She really had a way with words. At times, I was rendered speechless. I can’t believe she’s gone, but she will live on in my heart.”

“She made me laugh. She made me cry. She will be sorely missed.”

Okay, maybe I’m a tad dramatic, but as a reader, I find the letters DNF on a review (without further explanation) a little unsettling at first. 

Why didn’t they finish the book?

I can’t help but wonder, if the reviewer spent the time to leave a review then why can’t she take it one teeny tiny step further and add a comment such as:

“There were so many grammatical errors that I just couldn’t read one more word.”

“The story was going nowhere.”

What’s that? You don’t believe reviews are intended to help the author? Well, what about fellow readers? How about adding a comment such as:

“Thought I’d try romance, but yuck.”

“I started to have nightmares. I guess horror isn’t my thing.”

If you don’t want to leave further explanation, that’s your prerogative. It’s a free world. Do what you want. I don’t know how I would have felt about it in my pre-writing days. I suppose I’m a little sensitive to it since I’m a writer and now know how much hard work is involved in writing a book.

So what do you think? Would you ever give a book a DNF? Why or why not? If you have given one, did you give further explanation? As a reader, how do you react when you see a book marked DNF? Does it affect your purchasing decision? As a writer, how do you feel when your book is marked with DNF and no further explanation?




20 thoughts on “DNF? WTF?”

  1. Personally, I would never give one. As a writer, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few because of my writing style. Some people simply pick up a book that doesn’t click with them and they feel like they should say something. Sometimes it’s a sense of being honest and other times it’s because they think that their DNF status means the book is terrible for everyone.

  2. I’ve never heard of this designation. But stuck in the middle of a second novel, spending all my time with social media- #atzhallenge, I understand the ‘did not finish’ author dilemma. I’ve certainly put down a book because I had no interest in finishing it, but telling someone their book failed the mark…..I would leave that to hopefully a good editor that would take the author in hand.

    1. I’ve got one for you that you’ve probably already heard of:
      BIC HOK TAM = Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard, Typing Away Madly 🙂
      But I would add OMN = On My Novel because I could easily get distracted and be TAMing about many other things 😉

      1. Love those acronyms! Feels like this should be a twitter writing hashtag – you know like #amwriting.

        Btw, I had never realised there was such a thing as leaving a DNF review. That must be like sucker punch to the gut! I don’t think I’d ever leave one, generally speaking I don’t like to leave negative reviews. If I like a book I look at reviews as a way to boost the author’s profile and help them on their way. If I didn’t like the book I don’t say anything. Different strokes for different folks, and I figure that just because I didn’t like something doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t like it.

        Right ho, back to log another hour of BIC HOK TAM 😉

        1. You’re right! It should be a hashtag! #BICHOKTAM

          I think negative reviews can be helpful if the reviewer describes what he or she didn’t like about the book. Authors can use the feedback to improve their work or simply ignore it. If the issues described resonate with other readers it can help them find books they would enjoy and if it doesn’t they can just dismiss it. Art is so subjective, so DNF just isn’t helpful.

          1. I think we need to make #BICHOKTAM happen – it’s a great hashtag! And much better than the general #amwriting.

            Oh I definitely wouldn’t just leave a DNF, I agree that’s just counter productive. It’s about as useful as a review that jsut say ‘this was awesome’. Either way reviews do need enough detail to be useful, it’s just hard writing the bad ones…..

          2. I agree. It’ is hard to write a negative review. The only ones I’ve written are for classics, and yet I’ve still found things I can appreciate about them.

  3. I haven’t written a DNF review, but just last night I decided NTF (not to finish) a book I’m about half-way through with. For me, it just wasn’t going anywhere. I might pick it up again, not sure. As a writer, I’d want an explanation as to why a reader didn’t finish. It would be hard to take, but if it’s constructive and not mean criticism, then that can be helpful. Thanks for your post! http://lindacovella.com/my-blog/

  4. I never came across a dnf comment on book reviews. There have been books I didn’t finish for various reasons but I can’t imagine posting that. I’d rather post nothing. I agree with you. A dnf comment is too vague and leaves so many questions. Give the author a reason as to why you didn’t finish their book.

  5. I haven’t heard of this acronym yet, but I would probably chalk it up to the reviewer simply being too busy to finish the book. Although, that alone says something about the book, doesn’t it?

    1. Yes, it says something about the book from their perspective, but art is subjective. What one person loves, another hates, so it’s hard to judge a book on a dnf if the reviewer doesn’t elaborate a little. Thanks for commenting!

  6. I wouldn’t put a DNF review on a book – I prefer to just put it down quietly and move on. Having said that, I view them as the reader simply not enjoying the book. Let’s face it – no writer can please everyone.
    Great post. 🙂

  7. I’ve never actually written a book review, but I wouldn’t do one for a book I didn’t like. Getting a DNF could be devastating to an author, and I just wouldn’t do that to a person. If I received a DNF for a book I wrote, I would definitely want to know why the reader didn’t finish it. A few words would be enough — boring, didn’t like the characters, etc. Book reviews don’t generally influence my purchasing choices. I prefer to see for myself what the book is like.

Don't be shy! I'd love to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s