Monday, June 21, 2010

Anatomy of DNF


Apprentice Writer continues her dissection of what makes a book unfinishable for her.

The latest premature goodbye was bid to a contemporary romance, the second book of an author who maintains a smart and likable online presence, and whose books received a lot of buzz and very healthy publicity push. AW didn't attempt the first, partially due to hating the cover and partially due to lukewarm reviews, but the second cover looked good and the premise was promising.

Why did she stop?

1. Three uses of the word 'sardonic' in the first dozen pages
= author not living up to job requirement to impress with deft vocabulary.

2. Multiple references in same amount of space to how good-looking the hero is
= we get it already.

3. One paragraph about the heroine's notice of the hero's eyes, followed immediately by another paragraph on same
= proof of line editors being sacrificed to budget cuts in publishing houses?

4. The coup de grace: it is small-town girl heroine's first night in New York City, where she knows nothing and no-one but a colleague she met just that day who has brought her to a bar, where they soon become separated. She meets the hero, and without knowing ANYTHING about him (even his name) she agrees to go home with him - without even having the courtesy to inform her colleague that she's leaving, simply instructing the bartender to pass on the message
= in AW's world, this is not the bartender's job, and this is truly a TSTL heroine. AW will forgive many character flaws, but not stupidity on such astronomical level.

And that is how this book became a wallbanger.

Gentle Reader, was AW too harsh? Justified? What led to your latest DNF?

6 comments:

storm grant said...

Any chance you'd look at my first few pages when I'm ready to query? I love how you get to the specifics.

I just deleted 2 hard science fiction audiobooks unlistened to because the opening paragraphs were all backstory about spaceships and planets and cocktails of the future. Thank god for the library's free downloads.

BUT, on the other hand, I so loved Mark Henry's voice that I slogged through "Happy Hour of the Damned" despite hating his heroine. I will even purchase his next book, he's that brilliant.

Great post.
~ Gina

M. said...

Gina - how great to see you here again!

I'd love to take a look at your pages if you think it would be helpful.

I had an attracted/repelled thing going on with Mark Henry, due to being intrigued by his reportedly quirky, humorous voice but the not-being-a-zombie person part of me won out.

Rachel said...

"to impress with deft vocabulary" Awe! And might I had, Some! :)

I don't think you were too harsh. I often stop reading well-written books just because I find them boring. Poorly written books are very hard to stick with.

My last DNF was "Every Last Drop" by Charlie Huston. I stopped because I wasn't interested in the story. Now that's harsh, huh? An author can do everything right and I will still put down a book. :) Some readers are just not meant for some stories.

On the other hand, there are LOTS of books I would not have finished recently but had to because they were for review. If I control the books I pick up to read then my satisfaction rate is about 60-40. As in, a little over half of the books are average to above. With a random sampling (which often happens with the review books) my satisfaction rate probably doesn't even hit 20%. Ugh! At first I was quite daunted by doing 200 word reviews but now I see it's helpful because if I hated the book then I have to limit my ragging on it and if I had no interest in it whatsoever (happens all the time, such a bummer to know you are not the target audience) then I only have to come up with 200 words about something I don't care about.

M. said...

Rachel - 20% satisfaction rate might make me start to question wherher I was cut out for reviewing. No way to figure out how to tailor the selection sent your way more to your taste?

Rachel said...

There definitely is and it depends on how lazy I am. But even when I do my research, look into the authors/type of book, I still can bomb out on my selections. I freely admit that I'm a much pickier reader than most but I think it's also that some of the current trends in publishing are not exactly to my taste.

Pearl said...

yeah, there's small town girl and village idiot girl.

what did I last drop?

I don't recall the title but around 3/4 thru the book, apparently a deadline happened and the rest was a rush job. writing density and character integrity vaporized. I decided I'd be better off just doing a fan-fiction finish. which I didn't.

too bad about that book. it was going so well...