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The Validity of the DNF Review

November 7, 2012

I’ve seen some rumblings lately about the dreaded DNF. For those who don’t know what that stands for, it means Did Not Finish. I’ve had quite a number of DNFs in my reading life. When a book is just so bad that I can’t finish it. It usually makes me angry because I’ve spent money on a book that’s just bad.

What does this have to do with DNF? Well, there’s a number of authors who don’t believe that readers who DNF a book should leave any kind of rating or review. Why? Because the reader didn’t finish the book. After all, if they’d stuck it out through those sluggish, badly written, or uninteresting first pages/chapters/sections, the story would have picked up! The book would have gotten better/more interesting/introduced some great twist that would have redeemed the whole thing, and I—as the reader—should have recognized that and continued to read a book I wasn’t into. Only then would my rating and review be acceptable.

Except authors who tend to feel this way about DNFs also don’t respect a reader’s right to leave negative or poor reviews. It goes from the reader not sticking it out to the reader just not liking the author’s style/subject choice/whatever. I actually saw someone mention that a review should never be based on a reader’s personal preference. What? Of course it should! That’s all a review is! And if the reader’s personal preference is to DNF your book, rate it a 1-star, and leave a review saying it was so bad, they couldn’t finish it, that review is valid.

It angers me when authors try to tell readers how to read, how to review. No. We need to step back from that thought process. Would we like to be told how we should read or review the things we read? No. We chafe at the bit when we think we’re being told what we should write, how is it any different? We have no authority or right to demand readers review to our benefit or demand that—if they won’t—that they shouldn’t review at all.

Stow the pride. If you can’t handle DNFs or low ratings or bad reviews, just don’t read your reviews. That’s been my rule for years now. There are some reviewers I break that rule for (I’m looking at you Cole Riann), but, for the most part? I just keep my nose out of reviewers’ business. It’s none of my concern ultimately. People with love or hate what they’ll love or hate, and nothing I say as an author will change that. And it shouldn’t. 🙂

A DNF is as valid as a 5-star, and I know I won’t stop awarding a DNF to awful books I simply couldn’t finish.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. eviekiels permalink
    November 7, 2012 2:44 pm

    Completely agree. I think it’s absurd to suggest that an unfinished book shouldn’t be rated. Typically, you don’t finish a book because you don’t like it. You don’t like a book you give it a poor rating. That’s just how it works, and how it should work. From page one, the writing has to keep the reader engaged. The author can’t be there to cheer reader on, to tell the reader the meanings they missed. If the writing can’t keep a reader’s interest long enough to finish the book, it deserves a poor rating.

    None of us want poor ratings, but that is something we are tacitly agreeing to deal with when we publish. Our writing can’t and won’t appeal to everyone, and we should be very honest with ourselves about our audience and readers who we do and don’t write for and how they will respond.

    You hit on a pet peeve of mine :p

  2. November 7, 2012 2:53 pm

    Evie — It’s a huge pet peeve of mine because you’re right. When we publish our fiction, we’re asking readers to give us money for entertainment. When they do that–and the entertainment sucked–they have every right to walk out on it. I’ve done it for movies, too. I’m not going to sit through something I don’t like just because the creator of that entertainment thinks, eventually, I’ll like it.

    Books must be entertaining from beginning to end. Now, I’ll stick with a slow book for about 50-75 pages, but it you can’t pick it up by then, I am not going to waste my time. Time is just as important as money to me, and if I feel my time has been wasted, I’m going to DNF the book and write a review saying as much. Some people will agree with me and avoid the book, others will buy the book BECAUSE of my gripes. 🙂 That’s the beauty of entertainment and art: what I don’t like, someone else will love.

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