Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by Guardian » February 14th, 2011, 4:55 am

Margo wrote:There are writers who get carried away with the poetry of their own prose but otherwise are great writers. There are writers who rush to meet deadlines or to write 2-3 novels and a couple of novellas a year. There are writers who think that because they are established, no editor should ever touch their work again. Few books are perfect.
This is absolutely true. But as I also experienced the shaded part of this page skipping, boring, etc, etc...
Margo wrote:Blaming the reader for lack of engagment is pointless and egotistical. If writers don't like readers skipping long descriptions and sex scenes meant to get the writer off (with little concern for reader experience) the answer is simple, two words: write better.
I've met with some readers, and I also read reviews when someone is considered six or less necessary and perfectly written lines, descriptions as boring and then the reviewer is started to threaten the writer; I'm going to put you to blacklist if you won't change your style as I want. Or, another "big words"; it's a red-flag in my book. And that six lines wasn't complex, harsh in that novel, even a child was capable to understand. So, what do you say to that reader who is acting like a snub art lover who is standing in a gallery, holding a champagne in his hand, humming in front of Mona Lisa and saying... yum, yum, yum. It's boring. There are many people who is acting on this way without any true background and capable to consider something as boring (Novels, movies, games alike), because they can't understand it or because they're in the lack of basic taste. And in this case, books are not an exception.

Although, there is a difference between reader and reader. I also got rightful critiques in the past that some of my lines or even an entire chapter was boring and slow (Yep. Really-really-really slow. You would hate it. :D ). There the reader was right, so I rewritten it and it was really better. Why was that different? Because she was capable to tell what's the problem with it and also there was a solution to make it better or faster. But many of the reader can't tell what's the problem with some elements, just saying; oh, my. SIX LINES of surrounding description instead of action. It's even toooooo colorful and also has a style. Boooooooring. It's also toooooooo slooooooooow. It's time to skip. I've seen reviews, where the reviewer is considered a really good novel as boring and slow after six easy description lines somewhere around page ten.

The question is the why they're writing this, when something is evident and trivial.

#1: Because they lack of imagination. i.e: I've got this boring, slow, skipping stuff after four lines, right on my second page. One part was considered as boring, slow and impossible to imagine as there was a sapphire sun instead of the default one. Up from this moment the entire novel was considered as boring, slow and unimaginable by the reader... as there is a blue sun in a fantasy/sci-fi hybrid. Up from this moment it's already not my problem and I consider this as a lack of imagination. It's an experienced thing, so unfortunately it's existing.

#2: Because they simply can't understand lines what even a six years old is capable to understand.

#3: Or worse, if a writer is doing this. Now, the question is why a writer would do this? Because (s)he can't write lines what the other writer is capable to write (I already experienced this at certain writing websites when some "elitist" writer did this with newbie writers. They gave false advices regarding descriptions, because those so called "one novel/one world miracle" pros couldn't write good and truly beautiful lines what some newbie was capable to write there. So unfortunately it's also an existing scenario.) And these people are usually writing blogs and to present their opinion so serious to new writers, they're using big words, such as; red-flag, skipping, booooooooooooooooring. This is the primary reason why I agree with agents when they're saying; a writer shouldn't write book reviews.

As a writer you also must consider both scenario every time. And when a reviewer (movie, books, games, etc, etc...) is using truly "big words" to hide their incompetence and to give a greater tone to their words, 75-80% of those people is simply unable to understand trivial and evident elements. It's always easier to blame someone else, usually the creator, for their very own incompetence. So they consider it boring, slow, etc, etc... because that's easier. A good critiquer is always telling what is wrong with the entire product (Novels, movies, games). Who is considering something after few lines, few pages, and also can't explain what's the true problem with it... that one cannot be taken seriously.
-Or hell, you know what can improve your writing? Reading bad writing and figuring out why it's bad.
:) That's a really good advice. But you also must know and feel, when the reader is right and when the reader is wrong. It's also your job to decide between good and bad advices. Every reader review is based on taste, be it beta or normal review. But only around 10% is admitting if they can't understand something. But in the reality a large number of people is unable to understand basic, trivial and evident things.

But as I written at the beginning, this is the shaded part. I'm speaking about these things. The part what you explained is also right and I also agree with few of your points.
That said, it's impossible to please every reader. Some will hate what others love. Two more words: move on.
I agree with this completely. You can't please every reader and you must move on. But when you're writing, you also must know when to draw the line and how to make a difference between a good critique, human stupidity, ignorance or worse, envy people.

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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by Sommer Leigh » February 14th, 2011, 7:28 am

I am a skimmer, but I have a few reasons for it.

1. If I skim, it is usually the extensive dialogue tags and unnecessary "stuff" that a writer puts around dialogue. Sometimes I don't even notice I'm doing it right away. For this reason, I try to keep the "stuff" around dialogues to a minimum. Whether it is a writer problem or a reader problem...well I think it is a little bit of both, depending on the book and depending on me. Is it partly my fault because I like to read conversation with a minimum of interruption and breakaway text? Yes. I like the dialogue to flow and I'm largely uninterested in all the little movements that get peppered throughout the dialogue. Also I think some writers get carried away with the "stuff." You know, skimming over just to get the "who is talking" information, I very rarely miss anything I should have caught.

2. I can get a bit silly about books I'm very, very excited about when they are released and I get my hot little hands on them. For the very big, exciting releases that I've waited all year for I tend to read very fast which sometimes equates to skimming. This is a habit I'd very much like to break, but so far I've been mostly unsuccessful. I just have to know what happens, but almost as soon as I finish the novel I reread it at a slower pace without skimming. The two books that come to mind that were particularly bad was the last Harry Potter book and the last Hunger Games book.

3. I skim the lyrics of every song printed in any story. I blame Lord of the Rings for this, whose 20 page Elvish ballads made my eyes cross.

4. I skim dream sequences. I don't like dream sequences. I wish they didn't get used as often as they do.

I'm pretty sure these reading idiosyncrasies don't make me illiterate, just picky. I'm ok with that. It's the kind of reader I am and it has helped make me the kind of writer I am too. No song lyrics, dream sequences, or uninterrupted dialogue for my books. And just because I skim these bits doesn't mean the whole book is necessarily bad. I remember the great prologue debate on these forums where lots and lots of readers admitted to skipping over prologues. I'm not one of them, but I think we all have certain quirks about how we read, what we read, and what we like. I don't think it says anything specific about any reader or any writer. It certainly doesn't mean we should take away their library card for skimming.

People read differently, they interpret differently, the analyze differently, they are moved by different things...I think it is wrong to judge people because how they approach something -like reading- isn't the same way as us and therefore they are doing it the "wrong" way. That's just my opinion though. I think there is enough room for lots of ways.
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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by Margo » February 14th, 2011, 11:51 am

Sommer Leigh wrote:If I skim, it is usually the extensive dialogue tags and unnecessary "stuff" that a writer puts around dialogue.
This is usually called incidental action, and it's one of the habits I have to actively monitor in my own writing. It slinks into the first draft nice and sneaky-like, and I have to spend two or three revisions cutting most of it out and paring the rest of it down. You are not alone in this preference by far. Too much incidental action prevents the dialogue from reading like an exchange and instead leaves it halting and hard to follow, even when the extra goop is awful shinypretty.
Sommer Leigh wrote:I skim dream sequences. I don't like dream sequences. I wish they didn't get used as often as they do.
Also common common common. And one of the reasons agents are very likely to reject a book that begins with one. They are never as good for the reader as they are for the writer. I detect a theme!
Sommer Leigh wrote:I'm pretty sure these reading idiosyncrasies don't make me illiterate, just picky. I'm ok with that.
What was that fabulous quote from Down the Well on the thread about why people love 'bad books'? Something about wanting to query all future books as boorish sensationalist drivel? I LOVE that. You know, I can actually read sensationalist crap commerical fiction while picking lint out of my own navel! It's like literary fiction and commercial fiction all rolled into one experience! ;)
Sommer Leigh wrote:I think it is wrong to judge people because how they approach something -like reading- isn't the same way as us and therefore they are doing it the "wrong" way.
Not to mention pointless and counterproductive. Wrong way to make a point if we want anyone to listen.
Sommer Leigh wrote:That's just my opinion though. I think there is enough room for lots of ways.
Especially mine. :P
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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by KatieT » February 14th, 2011, 12:49 pm

If I find myself reading without absorbing, I go back to where I last left off as interested, and re-read. I am often tempted to skip ahead, but I don't like to miss any details, even if they are within a section of boring description or dialogue.

Sometimes, just the thought of re-reading alone will keep me reading through the "dry spells" ;)
If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it. - Anais Nin

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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by Down the well » February 14th, 2011, 1:15 pm

"Low-brow and subversive" literature, Margo. That's what the people were clamoring for, LOL.

Personally, it has nothing to do with a book being literary or commercial when I find myself skimming. I enjoy both and read both, but it's usually about flow, or pacing, or superfluous fluff that I know I can skim over and not lose any pertinent info. Like Sommer said, I skip over little songs and poems that people include in their novels, including in LOTR. They usually pull me out of the novel rather than immerse me deeper as the writer likely intended. But that's just how they affect me.

And bring on the cyber tomatoes, but when I read LOTR I found myself in a bog with Tom Bombadil and knew right away only one of us was coming out alive. In fact, I put the book down for several weeks when I got to that part because I just didn't like where things were going. I wasn't sure I wanted to endure a thousand pages of that. But it was LOTR, so I skimmed over Tom and as soon as the hobbits got back on the road and the black riders showed up I was a happy, engaged reader again. Blasphemy, I know. Some people really love that scene. Me, not so much.
Last edited by Down the well on February 14th, 2011, 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by Margo » February 14th, 2011, 1:18 pm

Down the well wrote:Personally, it has nothing to do with a book being literary or commercial when I find myself skimming.
I agree. I think the divide is among the readers who consider themselves primarily one or the other. To generalize too broadly, of course.
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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by Claudie » February 14th, 2011, 2:32 pm

Down the well wrote:And bring on the cyber tomatoes, but when I read LOTR I found myself in a bog with Tom Bombadil and knew right away only one of us was coming out alive. In fact, I put the book down for several weeks when I got to that part because I just didn't like where things were going. I wasn't sure I wanted to endure a thousand pages of that. But it was LOTR, so I skimmed over Tom and as soon as the hobbits got back on the road and the black riders showed up I was a happy, engaged reader again. Blasphemy, I know. Some people really love that scene. Me, not so much.
Oh, I can't throw tomatoes. I'm a hardcore LOTR fan, and I did the same. I skimmed through the songs and the 4-page descriptions on my first read, bouncing from one action scene to the other. I loved it, and then I reread the book 11 times in the space of a single year. Songs, descriptions, prologues, annexes. Everything.

But yes, I'm a skimmer. If your boring passage exceeds two pages, you can bet I'll scan for the next line of action. I try not to, but let's be honest, I have a lot to do in my day and reading is supposed to be fun. If I'm reading for pleasure and you are boring me, I will skip.

If I'm reading to learn something precise, I am more careful.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by J. T. SHEA » February 15th, 2011, 7:41 pm

Just a moment while I pull the little lint ball out of my navel with my Special Patented Pull The Little Lint Ball Out Of Your Navel Device.

Now, where was I? Oh yes! Skipping versus padding. Down The Well, snorting coffee is all very well, but you haven't lived until you inject it. Mind you, you mightn't live long after.

Interesting that Peter Jackson felt obliged to explain and practically apologize for leaving Tom Bombadil out of his LOTR movies. I have been reading THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING slowly and intermittently for years. Tom Bombadil stopped me last year, but I will most likely resume at some stage.

I usually don't skip passages when reading, except when I simply stop and skip the rest of the book. Like Katie T, I do sometimes find myself 'under-reading' as it were, coming to the end of a paragraph or page and wondering what just happened, if anything. I reread and sometimes find the answer is nothing much.

Like Sommer and Margo, I dislike 'bits of business' embedded in dialogue. I think I've already expressed my admiration for the sparsely attributed dialogue in Michael Crichton's later novels, though some readers may find them too screenplay-like.

I CAN understand writers of more discursive literary novels describing characters eating and drinking while talking at meals, avoiding those peculiar Hollywood meals where people talk and talk but nobody actually chews or swallows anything!

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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by bySD » February 22nd, 2011, 4:54 pm

I don't usually skip parts in novels, but I do in novellas. My mom gave me this one set she bought, and the middle story I read the first few pages, the last few pages, and didn't miss a thing. The whole story was a little trite.
:D

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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by Whirlochre » February 23rd, 2011, 3:07 am

It isn't for the reader to know what's important and what isn't until they get to the end of the book.
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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by Guardian » February 23rd, 2011, 5:53 am

Whirlochre wrote:It isn't for the reader to know what's important and what isn't until they get to the end of the book.
In the cursed, impatient 21st century, it seems it is.

I've seen a video blog yesterday, where a woman with literature degree background is started to tell people, why symbolism in a novel is bad and why it should be dropped from literature (Symbolism is just like details and passages... a necessary, important element in good and unique novels.). So, what is worked for more than twenty-one centuries, now, we should drop in her opinion. But from the video blog and from her and other responses, it's became clear why she is telling symbolism is not important, why it is a hated element and should be dropped, and why few others are supporting this; regardless from her background, she simply can't understand even basic symbolism and sentences which is a bit more complex than a straight nail. So, to cover her own incompetence, she is simply presenting symbolism as a non-important element, she is telling others to hate symbolism as it's not trendy and it should be dropped from novels. The worst is, these people are calling and presenting themselves as "expert readers" in the present, while they're presenting their very own opinion as if it would be the universal truth. Joke of the year.

So, in most cases, people love to tell what should be important in a book (symbolism, details, passages, etc, etc...) without reading the whole material;
1. to feel and present their very own being so important.
2. to present their own being as some sort of expert reader, what they never was and presumably never will be.
3. to show their never existed expertise with their superior tone.
4. to cover their own incompetence; the lack to understand even the basic elements.
5. just to say something.

The only exception when these people can be taken seriously; when they're able to explain what is wrong with the actual part (True explanation, not some false excuses.). So, if it's explained, if a part is really boring, because it's dry as the desert or really unnecessary as that part it not serving anything at all throughout the entire novel, or can be solved better, in that case it's really the writer's fault. But this is used to be very rare as writers are usually writing all these elements into the story to tell something important with it, to expand the imagination of the reader or to give a proper picture about a place, a character, an event, a world, etc, etc... But it's not the reader's job to decide what is improtant in the novel, until they're reaching the end. Skipping parts, and proudly telling it is just presenting the reader in a very bad light.

Novels had the following elements for more than twenty-one centuries;
They had a beginning, middle and an ending to give a full picture. Had background stories, details, symbolism, passages, and with all these things, excellent world building. The writer knew what is important, but never told it until the very end to leave some surprise for the reader. But no one complained until they read the novel from the beginning to the end. The writer kept the reader in the dark to give the chance to explore his / her world. And these novels are called as classic novels what for everyone still remembers.

And now let's take a look at the novels in our "bright" 21st century;
Start with a cliché action otherwise readers are going to consider it as boring. Drop the passages (Action A must be followed by Action B, then Action C and D), drop the details, drop the symbolism, drop even the world building to give only the important elements with immediate explanation, otherwise the readers are starting to complain (Although, dropping all these elements are making the novel to an ultimate cliché and absolutely dumb novel, but who cares?). If the reader must remember for something, must use their little grey cells or their fantasy even for a second, that's bad. Writers shouldn't keep readers in the dark, but for exchange they should strip the readers from the joy of exploration. So based on these "expert" views, writers should write boring, straight nail, predictible clichés, which looks like and sounds like just as the thousand others on the market (Only very few of these novels are remembered, but most are forgotten within a year or two.).
Last edited by Guardian on February 23rd, 2011, 8:03 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by beeboo15 » February 23rd, 2011, 7:13 am

For me it's either skipping parts or putting the book down and not picking it back up. That simple.

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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by Sommer Leigh » February 23rd, 2011, 8:38 am

Guardian wrote:
I've seen a video blog yesterday, where a woman with literature degree background is started to tell people, why symbolism in a novel is bad and why it should be dropped from literature (Symbolism is just like details and passages... a necessary, important element in good and unique novels.). So, what is worked for more than twenty-one centuries, now, we should drop in her opinion. But from the video blog and from her and other responses, it's became clear why she is telling symbolism is not important, why it is a hated element and should be dropped, and why few others are supporting this; regardless from her background, she simply can't understand even basic symbolism and sentences which is a bit more complex than a straight nail. So, to cover her own incompetence, she is simply presenting symbolism as a non-important element, she is telling others to hate symbolism as it's not trendy and it should be dropped from novels. The worst is, these people are calling and presenting themselves as "expert readers" in the present, while they're presenting their very own opinion as if it would be the universal truth. Joke of the year.
This made me laugh. Like hearing we should remove all capital letters.

Although I do hate symbolism being forced upon me by another reader. I think intended symbolism and perceived symbolism can be two entirely different things and to each perception a new meaning.
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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by Guardian » February 23rd, 2011, 8:47 am

Sommer Leigh wrote:This made me laugh. Like hearing we should remove all capital letters.
I thought the very same. :) But if this is going to be the new trend, this might be the next. Drop cap letters, because it's bothering the reader as they used to write without cap letters via forums and the net.

I already see the novels of the 22nd century...
the knight LOL-ed as he prepared his sword and OWNED the dragon with a quick strike. The princess gave xoxox to the brave knight.
"WOOT," the knight said victoriously.
But the dragon wasn't dead. it's just pretended. it silently ROTFL-ed and LMAO-ed behind the knight and waited the moment to strike. the dragon used his fiery breath and KAPOW PAWNED the knight.
"ultimate FAIL," the princess whispered. "what a LOOSER."
Although I do hate symbolism being forced upon me by another reader. I think intended symbolism and perceived symbolism can be two entirely different things and to each perception a new meaning.
I agree.
Last edited by Guardian on February 23rd, 2011, 9:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Habit: skipping parts or passages in a novel

Post by Mimi Cross » February 23rd, 2011, 9:09 am

Hi Nathan,

Okay , here’s my weird take on skipping.

I find that as an adult, I skip more.

If the book is a gloriously detailed beautifully descriptive story for adults and I can tell the author is wonderfully educated and literate, that’s right, sometimes I skip.
And that is because I have read a LOT.

But, I would not have skipped those passages when I was a teen!

That’s because that style of writing would have been new, a revelation, and as a teen, I was always looking for clues to life.

Not to say I have all the answers now, and I don’t always skip, but maybe one of the reasons I’m so enamored with YA these days is because I don’t have much time to read, and I want to find out what happens! Now!

So in a strange way, this is my argument for wordier YA. The kids will be all right if we give them more. I’ve already seen so much.

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