Is your story skim, 1%, 2% or whole?



                           How rich is your story?

I love reading new books. Sometimes, if I’ve read the back flap and the first few paragraphs, I know that it’s going to be good. And I wait until I have a chunk of time to read it.

Unfortunately, some books don’t meet up to my expectations. Other times, they wow me and I never would’ve guessed. You can’t always judge a book by a cover.

There’s this thing called – the middle of the book.  And there’s this term called – the sagging middle. Even if you’re not a writer, I’m sure you can figure out what it means. I was so excited to read this certain book, it’s not a new release or a big winner, but the story sounded interesting. And in all fairness, it was well-written, clever…but it moved…so…slow…like grandma-behind-the-wheel slow. Yes, all the pieces fell together, but I forced myself through the middle – down one side and up the other.

I want the clues and the foreshadowing, but I need more than just dialogue to carry the middle. I need the first act climax. I need the big twist at the end of the second act that changes the story. And I need a tense build up to an exciting final act. And a great emotional arc always helps.

Sadly, the middle of this certain book was definitely skim. As in I skimmed major parts of the middle. And honestly, I don’t think I missed much by skimming.

But, I learned.

I learned that surprising the reader and introducing new elements into the story is important.

Have you skim-proofed your story?

18 Responses to Is your story skim, 1%, 2% or whole?

  1. Tina Lee March 8, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    That is what so great about reading books. And your blog!

  2. Laura March 8, 2010 at 4:24 pm #

    Tina – We can learn from any book we read, whether we loved it or put it down half way.

  3. Heather Kelly March 8, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    This is a very good point. I trudged through a painfully slow middle grade book last year, and as I read, I kept asking myself why. Why was I putting myself through so much pain to get to the end. I’m sure I skimmed parts. (But not enough…) And then today, I was reading a comment at a blog which named that book as on of the commenter’s top three. Top three! Wow. It just goes to show you that everyone has a different skim threshold. Your yuck may be another person’s yum, you know.

  4. Heather Kelly March 8, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    That should read “one of the commenter’s top three.” It’s hard to read with the typo. 🙂

  5. Laura March 8, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Definitely right, Heather. It’s easy to see why it’s a matter of finding the right agent, right time, right story.

  6. Paul Greci March 8, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    I love this concept of skim-proofing!! I think I’ve tried to do that but your term really gives the process some focus. It’s like, “okay, what can we skip here, and still get to where we are going?”

  7. Laura March 8, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    Paul – Now I’ve got to skim-proof my work. 🙂

  8. Lisa Green March 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    I can’t skim. Just can’t bring myself to do it. I have such little patience, I’m ashamed. If I get to that point, I am more likely not to finish it at all.

  9. Laura March 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    Lisa – I’ll often book down a book, but sometimes it’s borderline, and those are the ones I’ll skim through. Or worse, I’ve heard lots of good things on the book and I keep thinking it will get better.

  10. Sherrie Petersen March 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    Skim proof — I like that! I hope all my writing is skim proof 😀

  11. Laura March 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm #

    Sherrie – I hope so too!

  12. Kelly March 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    I know, I’m so disappointed when I get to a book that is hard to get through like that. I still finish it, but then why waste my time? But I guess I really do want to see how it ends…

  13. Laura March 8, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    Kelly – Seriously I’ve skipped the whole middle on books sometimes and felt like I didn’t miss anything that was important to the story. Okay, I might have missed some character development, but I understood the ending perfectly. I don’t want to write stories like that. I’ll finish a book like that to learn what not to do.

  14. Kristen Torres-Toro March 9, 2010 at 1:58 am #

    Right now I just want to get past the 3rd chapter. :0)

  15. Kris March 9, 2010 at 2:13 am #

    I can’t skim and I can’t skip to the end. It it’s not “whole” I put it down and probably won’t go back… But it’s an interesting thought when it comes to your own work. We sometimes think our own stuff is the “cream of the crop” when it might be…what’s the stuff at the bottom? The gunk?

  16. Laura March 9, 2010 at 2:19 am #

    Kristen – I feel that way sometimes too. Right now, I have three books I’m dying to start, but I’m waiting.

    Kris – To some degree, writers have to believe they are the cream of the crop or we’d never get past the beginner stage.

  17. Nelsa March 9, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    I love skim milk in real life but definitely not in my books.

    I used to force myself to keep going through those skimmed middles but, now, with my own writing and with so little precious time to read – no way. I don’t need a cliff hanger with every chapter but I need escalation of tension – in whatever manner is suitable to the plot. And that big twist at the end of Act Two? Must have. I just discovered my big twist after wading through the mucky middle and now I have to re-outline the whole last third of the book!

  18. Laura March 9, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    Nelsa, Glad you found your twist! I love twists! The reason I stuck through this story is because it was similar to an idea I had – turns out it is not so similar. Just goes to show you. But I wanted to read through and make sure. Research. Ya know?

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