When to shelve your manuscript (and when to just take a break)

Does anyone else find it almost impossible to DNF a book?

What about you, writers, how hard is it to abandon a manuscript you’ve worked on for a long time, but know will never be ready for publishing? Or even, that you’ve simply fallen out of love with?

There’s this concept called the sunk cost fallacy, and I think a lot of us can identify with it. In a nutshell, it means you refuse to give up on something, even when it’s terrible or has come to its natural end, because you think the time and energy you put into it so far will have been wasted if you quit.

It’s used a lot to explain why people stay in relationships and jobs that no longer serve them or make them happy. But it also applies to your creative projects and WIPs.

So, how do you decide when it’s time to abandon your current novel and start working on something new?

Should you shelve your current WIP?

There are a few questions you could ask yourself to determine if it’s time to move on from that book you’ve been writing for years, or that hasn’t gotten any requests from agents or publishers:

  • Are you hoping to publish it one day, or are you just writing it for fun? (There’s nothing wrong with writing something you’re passionate about but have no intention of sharing, it’s good to have a comfort WIP you can turn to when you need a break)
  • Does it fit into a recognisable genre and have clear comparative titles?
  • Is the genre you’re writing in selling/popular right now? (If not, it doesn’t automatically mean you should abandon your WIP, trends come back around and it could be the next big thing!)
  • Have you had beta readers and editors look at it, and did they enjoy it?
  • Do you feel as though there’s still work to be done, revisions and edits that will make your story better? (If you feel like you’ve done everything you can and the story still isn’t working, it might be time to shelve the MS)
  • Do you enjoy working on your story? Do you fall asleep thinking about it and daydream your way through the work day, jotting down snippets of dialogue and ideas for plot twists? (Then it’s probably not quite time to abandon your story! Another round of betas might help you get closer to being publication ready)
  • Is there another idea or plot bunny that’s been nagging at your brain? (You’re not alone, we all get shiny new ideas, but if you give up on your current WIP every time you get a new plot bunny you’ll never finish a book, so make all the notes you want, and then get back to your WIP!)

We all hit road bumps in our writing journeys, and some days getting the words down is like pulling teeth, because writing is hard. It is hard. But we’re all in this together, even when writing feels lonely, there’s a whole community of us out here who you can reach out to for support and encouragement.

And even if you shelve an MS, that doesn’t mean you can’t take it back out months or even years later, dust it off, and get it ready for the world to read. We need your stories!



Top ten series I started and haven’t finished (yet)

I’m jumping back into the Top Ten Tuesday club this week, one of my favourite things about TTT is that you don’t have to take part every week, you can dip in and out when the topic takes your fancy, or – like me – you finally get a minute to type! TTT is a blog meme hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl where we pick ten books or series on a different theme each week. This week it’s Top Ten Book Series I Gave Up On/Don’t Plan to Finish.

I’m going to split my list into series I don’t plan to continue reading, and ones I do but haven’t gotten round to yet, because, you know, life.


Book Series I DNF’ed

Red QueenMaze Runner  Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief Red Rising by Pierce Brown Prince of Thorns Mark Lawrence Me Before You

  1. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

    1. I still wonder whether I should just bite the bullet and read War Storm, it’s incredibly frustrating DNFing a series on the penultimate book! But I just couldn’t get on with Mare, and I enjoyed each book less and less, so I decided to cut my losses and just stop reading the series. If anyone’s read War Storm and wants to tell me how it ends please do in the comments – just leave a spoiler warning in case anyone else hasn’t read it yet!
  2. Maze Runner by James Dashner

    1. I read books one and two in the Maze Runner series, book two took me months to finish and I really didn’t enjoy it, so despite the fact I’d bought the entire boxset, I quit reading after Scorch Trials. I might watch the last two movies just out of curiosity, but even they aren’t great in my opinion. I was gutted I didn’t love this series because so many people online raved about it. Oh well, different strokes and all that.
  3. Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

    1. Sadly, I think I just came to this series too old, which is heartbreaking because I bet I would have really loved it at sixteen or younger. I enjoyed book one, but with so many other books out there I didn’t love it enough to commit to the rest of the series and all the spin-offs Riordan has written. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re into MG though!
  4. Red Rising by Pierce Brown

    1. This is one series I heard nothing but good things about, everyone seems to love Red Rising, and it was good, but I just didn’t click with it the way I wanted to. This one isn’t a never, but with new books coming out every month that I can’t wait to read I’ll probably never get around to reading the rest of this series. Unless you really think I should? Is book two way better than book one? Let me know in the comments if you think I should persevere! To be honest, I wonder if it was the narrator I didn’t mesh with, as I listened to the audiobook…
  5. Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

    1. Unfortunately, the reason I DNFed King of Thorns halfway through was because it was a library book and I had to return it as I’d already extended it to the full extent possible, plus we were moving house to a new city. Even though I loved the series up to that point, I wasn’t absorbed enough to find another copy of the book (as easy as that would have been with Amazon and the Book Depository!) so I just gave up on it. It’s a great read though, so check out my review of Prince of Thorns to see if you’d enjoy it.
  6. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

    1. I loved Me Before You, absolutely adored it and recommended it to everyone I knew, but to me it ended so well that I don’t need to continue reading the rest of the series. I’d be heartbroken if it didn’t live up to book one and disappointed me. Plus I read the first chapter of After You in a sampler and didn’t love it, so I decided to keep Me Before You as a standalone in my mind.


Series I still plan to finish one day!

Half Bad by Sally Green Artemis Fowl

Cinder by Marissa Meyer Lyndsey's Book Blog The Cuckoo's Calling

  1. Half Bad by Sally Green

    1. This is one of my absolute favourite series, and I can’t bear for it to end! I haven’t bought Half Lost yet because I’m saving it, I really want to know how the series concludes but I know I’ll have the worst book hangover when it ends. One day, Nathan, one day…
  2. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

    1. I loved every Artemis Fowl book I could get my hands on when I was in school. I’d go to the mobile library every month and grab the next one until I’d read them all. A few more have been released since then, but I’d moved onto other book series and left MG behind after school. I hope to read the rest one day, maybe when I’m reading with my son, I hope he’s a bookworm like me!
  3. Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

    1. I read Cinder last summer as part of a read-along with a Goodreads group, and I plan to continue the series soon, but I have a few books on my TBR before I pick up Scarlet and Cress.
  4. Cormoran Strike by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling

    1. I actually listened to the audiobook of Career of Evil before reading either of the two previous books, because it was on an Audible Daily Deal. I didn’t realise it wasn’t book one until afterwards. I’ve watched the BBC adaptations now, but I’d still love to read the actual books, as I adore Rowling’s writing, Harry Potter is my ultimate favourite book series, and I imagine the TV series missed out a lot of detail from the books.


So there you have it, ten book series I’ve started and not finished for various reasons. Let me know if you’ve finished any of these series, were they worth the time investment? Would you recommend I keep reading? Tell me your thoughts!




To DNF or not to DNF

For those of you who haven’t come across the term, DNF is short for Did Not Finish. I don’t tend to stop reading books without finishing them very often, but that might be because I’m pretty selective about what I read. I don’t read hundreds of books per year, my Goodreads challenge this year is set to 36 books and that will probably be a record for me, except for maybe when I was a kid and books were less than 100 pages.

To DNF or not to DNF Lyndsey's Book Blog

First of all, I’d like to say there’s no shame or failure in putting down a book you’re just not enjoying, or not in the mood for. There are millions of books in the world, and thousands more being written and published every year, don’t waste your time slogging through 350-500 pages of a story that bores you or characters you hate. Life’s too short. Put down the classic or literary fiction book you thought you should read and pick up the romance or YA contemporary you really want to.

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Reasons you might DNF a book:

  1. You’re not into the plot – boring? Cliche? Put it down and try something else.
  2. You hate the MC – you don’t want to spend hours or days stuck inside the head of someone awful, DNF it.
  3. The genre isn’t doing it for you – not your usual bag? Drop it and read your fave genre, don’t feel like you have to love crime thrillers or erotica if you just don’t.
  4. Not in the mood – we all have book slumps, hangovers and times when we just really fancy a specific kind of story. If it’s not doing it for you right now just put it down and come back it another time.
  5. It’s offensive/triggering/contains bad or zero representation – if you genuinely feel like continuing to read this book could be harmful, or you don’t want to support the book or author, please just DNF it.

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Books I Did Not Finish

Beautiful Creatures Kami Garcia Margaret Stohl Lyndsey's Book Blog

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

I loved the film when it came out, it was so moody and atmospheric. There’s just something about the South that makes it the perfect backdrop for stories with magic and witches and mystery. That said, I found the book so boring I had to give up halfway through. I tried, I really tried. I kept it on my bedside table for about a year but every time I picked it up and read a few pages I just couldn’t get into it, it wasn’t pulling me into the story or the characters’ lives.

This should have been exactly my cup of tea, I love YA, especially fantasy, anything with magic, curses, historical back stories and star crossed lovers. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

Elizabeth is Missing Emma Healey Lyndsey's Book Blog

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

I was bought this one for my birthday because it was getting a lot of hype at the time, it isn’t at all my kind of thing but I gave it a shot because so many people had said how good it was. It wasn’t the worst, but it was sort of slow and I struggled with the MC as she’s an old lady with dementia.

Apparently, the author has a relative with dementia and it’s very well researched and depicted (I know someone whose mother has dementia and she read this book and said it was exactly like her experience with her mother). I think it’s great that mental illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s are being represented in literature, but I couldn’t really get on with the story due to it jumping about all over the place. I might return to this one eventually, my Mum is borrowing it right now (she’s had it months and hasn’t finished it either), but it’s definitely on my DNF pile for now.

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Like I said, I don’t DNF books very often, there are probably one or two more, but I tend to persevere to the end, even if it takes me months. Sometimes, when I come back to a book after a break I find I actually enjoy it, and it was me rather than the book that was just not quite right at the time.

My one piece of advice for you would be that if you DNF a book because you’re not feeling it right now, or not enjoying it even thought it would normally be right up your street, come back to it later. Read something else, or take a break from reading for a while – it’s easy to get overwhelmed by our TBRs and end up DNFing every other book because we weren’t hooked by page ten, but if you pick it up again later you might find yourself enjoying it.

One of the more controversial sides of DNFing is whether to write a book review or not. Some say you can’t review a book you didn’t finish, or didn’t even get halfway through, others are happy to learn from your bad experience and not waste their money. I can see it from both sides, as an author bad reviews, whilst part of the job, can be a huge blow to both confidence and reputation, and one where the reader didn’t even read to the end, where you might feel all their complaints would have been resolved (unlikely, and probably means you should have worked harder on the first half), might just feel like a slap in the face. As a reader they can be interesting and useful, if the reason the person didn’t finish isn’t something that bothers me I might still read it, but if I was having qualms about a certain book anyway I might now not.

Basically, DNF reviews have their place, and can be really useful, but explain your reasons for not finishing so that others can at least learn from your experience, don’t just shout about how much you hated it without any constructive criticism.

Which books have you DNFed? One series I think I’m going to DNF is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, I’ve read King’s Cage and just have no interest in continuing so I think I’ll call that one DNFed and maybe check out the spoilers for the next book so I at least know what happened.

Until next time!



To DNF or not to DNF Lyndsey's Book Blog