Skimming (and I don’t mean stones)

Okay. Tell the truth time – even though it’s not Tuesday.

I love, love, love a good book. As with most writers – I always have. But learning to write has turned me into a super picky reader. Sometimes, I skim (gulp). I have several different reactions when I read.

This is the most terrific story and I’m going to run out and tell everyone about it.

 These stories I read word for word. I get caught up in the humor, suspense, the characters. At this level, I would read about the character doing the most mundane things like drinking milk or making a pb and j sandwich. I relish every minute reading it and am disappointed when the experience ends.

This is a good book and I’ll give it a favorable review but I’m not gushing or anything.

I’ll read this book and have a healthy respect for the writing and the author. I’ll give it favorable reviews. Most likely, I’ll read this word for word.

The story could have been a lot better.

I hate to say it. I never used to skim. But I don’t have time to waste on a book that is only half interesting. If there is a series of scenes of only character development and not plot, I’ll skim. And if it continues, I’ll skip huge chunks of the middle. The sad thing is, I’ll read the ending and realize I didn’t miss a thing. I still completely understood the ending.

Danger zone of losing me as a reader.

These are the books that after the first page or chapter, I stop reading. They might be good books, worthy of being published, they just didn’t draw me into the story – at all. And I’m sure this is extremely subjective.

Of course, there are levels in between. I didn’t start skimming until I became a writer. It makes me realize how important pacing, structure, micro tension are to a story.

Why does this phenomenon occur?

It’s because I read to learn. I do read for pleasure too, but I want to learn at the same time. And because I want to get the most out of my time, I won’t waste it. I think if I stopped writing and went back to just reading for pleasure, I’d stop skimming as much.

What do you think? Why and when do you skim?

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13 Responses to Skimming (and I don’t mean stones)

  1. Jody Hedlund July 19, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    I totally have become a much pickier reader over the years I been writing. It’s hard for me to make it through a book, and if it doesn’t hold my attention I have a hard time finishing it. Mostly it’s a time factor–I just don’t have that much time to read so when I do, I want to truly enjoy the experience!

  2. Laura Pauling July 19, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    And what just totally cracked me up is that my title is a total faux pas. We don’t skim stones, we skip them! The laugh is on me.

  3. Tina Lee July 19, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    I do this too. My book club gives me a hard time for this. But I also find that I read something all the way through depending on what I am learning. Sometimes I am working on beginnings and I read as many beginnings as i can without finishing. Even if i find the book to be good. Sometimes I read for pace and the book may lack in all other elements but i want to figure out how pace works. I find the whole reading process to be so subjective to my writing process. I could go on and on!

    On a totally separate but equally thrilling note, I now get emails for follow up comments from your blog!

  4. Anna July 19, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    I was definitely a less picky reader before I started focusing on writing. You’re right – we read to learn, so it feels more useful to read books that actually work. You can learn from a book’s mistakes, of course, but it’s not as much fun.

    • Laura July 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

      Srsly – it’s so good to know that other writers do this. I end up feeling so incredibly guilty though. But not that guilty. 🙂

  5. Karen Strong July 19, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Laura, you are definitely not the only one. I don’t know if I can read a book anymore without looking at it from a writer’s perspective.

    I used to be one of those people who would trudge through a book just to get to end. But not anymore. I give a book about 4 chapters and then I’m done. I may skim through to the end but by then, I’ve lost interest.

    Like Anna said, you can learn from the reasons why you stopped reading but it isn’t as fun as LOVING a book and reading it over and over and still getting something out of it.

  6. Patti Nielson July 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    Sometimes to my detriment, I’m a skimmer. I find I get impatient with description or like you said character development. Actually I almost find I’m worse with a good book, because I want to get to the ending.

    • Laura July 19, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

      I’m in such a read-to-learn phase right now too that it just makes it worse. I want to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because it’s the hot summer read where I live, but I want to wait until I can fully appreciate it. I’ve heard the first 100 pages are slow and then it gets good. Can you imagine telling a child that after the first 75 pages the story gets good? Right.

  7. Carole Anne Carr July 19, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    I wish I had time to even skim! I long to settle down with a good ‘grown-ups’ book again, but instead read and study and write books for children. Maybe one day!

  8. Ansha Kotyk July 19, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    I’m with you on wanting to learn good craft while reading. Sadly I never learned to skim well, so when I do it I seriously jump around and the story makes no sense to me. So I’m either reading every word or I’m putting the book down.

  9. Kelly Polark July 20, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    I do find myself skimming sometimes. Just a paragraph here and there, not a whole page.
    But if I start a book, I must finish the book, no matter how bad it is.

  10. Jackee July 20, 2010 at 4:09 am #

    I skim when I know I won’t have the time to visit the book soon enough. Between kids and other committments, I have to know what will happen next even if I can’t find the time to. Solution? Skip ahead and even skim sometimes.

    But, like you, I’m picky and have no problem putting a book I don’t like well down once I know how it will end.

  11. Marcia July 20, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    Yup, I’m a skimmer and a skipper. As a writer I’m a picky reader, and if I don’t like a book but want to know how the plot turns out, I’ll skim big-time. If I don’t care about the plot either, I’ll put it down. There are too many books and too little time.

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