Posted in Writing

DNF Romance

Dear Author,

I wanted to finish reading your book.  I always want to finish.  In fact, there was once a time in my life when, no matter how difficult, I would slog through to the bitter end.

I had more free time on my hands in those days, and a far greater tolerance for pain.

You might not think this is a big deal, but I read a LOT of books, and so do my friends.  We’re always looking for a ‘new’ author, and when we find one we really like, we go and purchase everything the author has written.  You’re not just losing sales on your future books, you’re also losing them on your back catalog.

On the off-chance that you are looking to improve, here are some of the reasons your book landed in the dreaded DNF (did not finish) pile:

You bored me.  Life is too darn short to spend it reading something that puts me to sleep.  Textbooks are the primary culprit in this category, but your fiction committed this cardinal sin as well.  Please get a beta reader/editor to help you tighten up the narrative.

I can’t stand being inside your character’s head.  You wrote from the first-person point-of-view, but your character wasn’t capable of holding the entire narrative on her frail shoulders.  I felt like I was listening to a coworker talk about her divorce, wondering if it all really happened just like she said, and curious as to the other side of the story.

I hate your protagonist, Part I.  The greatest risk of first-person POV is that it can make a merely annoying character truly unbearable, because now I’m locked in her head.  Please tell your whining-and-making one-poor-choice-after-another drama queen to shut up.  I shouldn’t be rooting for the bad guys to win, or worse, wishing for a ‘rocks fall, everyone dies’ ending.

Your mistakes killed me.  The advice is to ‘write now, research later,’ but you forgot to come back and do the research part.  I’m not referring to the sort of error that would only be noticeable to a subject matter expert, but your romantic lead is in the military and there’s no excuse in the age of wiki for not knowing what rank is appropriate for the age of your character.  A 24 year-old Lieutenant?  Sure.  A 24 year-old Colonel, not so much.

Your lack of personal experience shows.  Not everything can be gathered through research, and the sad truth is that some things require first-hand experience if you choose to focus on them.  In your case, you chose to be rather explicit describing something that I’ll just refer to as peeling potatoes, but it was obvious you had never peeled potatoes.  In fact, it was clear that not only had you not peeled potatoes, you had never so much as held a spud.  In this instance, it would have been best if you had left the couple to peel potatoes behind closed doors.

I hate your Protagonist, Part II.  If your romantic lead spent the first half of the book being a jerk, why should I believe he won’t start mistreating his One True Love later on, once the honeymoon is over?  And why would she want to hook up with him in the first place?  If this guy’s going to have a mighty change of heart by the middle of the book (and I wouldn’t recommend waiting until later), please don’t try to base the transformation solely on the love of a good woman.

You grossed me out.  We all have different tolerance points, which is why sub-genres exist and M18+ books have warnings.  Your graphic description of a sucking chest wound would have been fine in a war thriller, but it wasn’t appropriate for your target audience in a contemporary romance.  I know your character was a nurse, but most readers don’t want to stumble across the dirty details while they’re eating lunch.

Your protagonist is a fashion plate.  Descriptions of the physical world are necessary to good fiction, but your character’s clothing took center stage.  I don’t need to know that she chose to wear a black pencil skirt with a sheer, soft coral blouse and silver hoop earrings.  I might need to know what her love interest thinks of her appearance, but I doubt he’s looking at her earrings.

You have an obvious author tic.  By the third chapter, your protagonist had rolled her eyes seventeen times.  Your romantic lead blinked twelve times.  You referenced his deep blue eyes in six different places.  I should never be able to play drinking games with your prose.

The worst part of all of this is that it didn’t have to be this way.  A good beta cures most of these ills, and a great beta has the courage to tell you that your character is unlikable.  I started reading your book because it looked interesting, so there was something there to draw me in.  You just didn’t close the deal, which is a shame.  The world needs more good books, and I was hoping one of them would be yours.

Sincerely,

~Lavender

Author:

I'm just a bean-counter with an over-active imagination.

6 thoughts on “DNF Romance

  1. Although my DNF pile is not as large as yours, I do have one. I have not tried to put into words why I will quit mid-book. But as I read through your list I could concurred with much that you said. I sometimes just feel insulted by the author. Like I’m incapable of tracking points the author makes over and over and over, and often poorly. My drinking word is “shrugged”, as it relates to getting into or out of a coat. (please, no more than once per book)
    You, my dear have a gift. Thanks for putting it on paper.

    Like

  2. Although my DNF pile is not as large as yours, I do have one. I have not tried to put into words why I will quit mid-book. But as I read through your list I could concurred with much that you said. I sometimes just feel insulted by the author. Like I’m incapable of tracking points the author makes over and over and over, and often poorly. My drinking word is “shrugged”, as it relates to getting into or out of a coat. (please, no more than once per book)
    You, my dear have a gift. Thanks for putting it on paper.

    Liked by 1 person

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