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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Twelve Steps to Turning a Skimmer into a Reader

Please welcome guest blogger Rachel Firasek

Hello, my name is Rachel and I'm a chronic skimmer. Here are the twelve steps in keeping my attention.
  1. Love the white space. It usually means the author will give me plenty of active, realistic dialogue. I absolutely cringe when I flip to a page that has no indents or no quote marks. Yes, there are circumstances that require it on occasion, but keep it to a minimum.
  1. Keep the description light and sprinkled throughout. I don't need a room setup before you walk a character into it. Let them walk in, chat, move around and describe things as the character would come to them.
  1. Be sure that you're in the right POV. Sometimes when I'm reading, the author is in the wrong person's pov and it doesn't ring true to the scene.
  1. Keep the language consistent. (I struggle with this myself) You can't start the story off in a NY dialect and end in a country twang. I'll skim back to that NY feel. It's what I fell in love with enough to get past page three.
  1. Don't let any of the main characters whine. I can't stand even the villain to get whiney. Secondary characters I can read through, but a nagging villain will make me skim those parts.
  1. Make each word count. If you are fluffing the writing to hit a word count, it will kill the pacing and therefore set my skimming into motion.
  1. Keep the dialogue interesting. If it sounds like something my granny would say, chances are I'm not going to be able to stick with it. That doesn't mean you have to use the hippest slang, but it needs to feel current.
  1. Check out your facts. If you're going to write about something that's not familiar to you, do a bit of research. I hate catching an author's errors when it should be a subject that they've researched.
  1. Keep the setting moving as much as your characters. I don't want to see them in the same place for ½ of the novel.
  1. That also doesn't mean that I want them in 32 different settings, unless you're writing the next big Indiana Jones replacement.
  1. Stick to the genre. Remember that if it's romance, keep the hero and heroine together enough to spark a flame. If it's horror, I want to feel scared--at least once.
  1. The number one way to keep me from skimming: Love your story. You can tell when an author loves their own story, it's like the words are formed with the love. The characters are more alive. The setting and world building is richer. I've seen it my own writing and I notice it in others. You have to love your story first, then you can fix all the other things that make it great.
Thank you all for my letting me list a sure fire way to keep my attention. I'm no longer your average reader, but I used to be. These all are things that I picked up on before I knew what to call them. What makes you skim? I'd love to know.

Rachel's writing career began at the impressionable age of twelve with a poem dedicated to the soldiers of Desert Storm. A dark macabre affair that earned her a publication in an anthology and many raised eyebrows from family and friends, she hid her poetry and artistic style for years…

Tucked away in the heart of Central Texas, with the loving support of her husband and three children, she dusted the cobwebs from her craft. Returning to those twisted regions of her mind, she creates dark urban fantasies and soul-searching paranormal romance.

To learn where love twists the soul and lights the shadows, visit Rachel at http://www.rachelfirasek.com/

Piper's Fury

It's an empath thing...

Using your "powers" to help the Dark Hills Police Department hunt down serial killers doesn't leave much time for dating. Not that Piper Anast is complaining. The last thing she needs is some guy brushing up against her and pumping his pornographic thoughts into her head.

When she meets Bennett Slade, a sexy, tormented vampire, Piper stumbles headlong into a telepathic connection with his missing daughter. She can't leave the kid to the evil surrounding her unwanted visions, nor can she resist her draw to Slade. He's the first guy she's been able to touch vision-free in, well, forever.

As she and Slade close in on the evil creature holding his daughter, Piper's powers morph into a deadly fury. To save Slade's daughter-and herself-Piper must face down demons she never knew she had and trust the one thing she keeps from everyone.

Her heart.


KendallGrey said...

I agree with all of your steps! I especially like your points about the white space issue, research, and not wasting words. I've become ruthless about slashing words, sentences, paragraphs - even entire scenes - that are unnecessary. Cut the crap. Get to the point. Make every word count. Your reader doesn't have the time or the attention span to muddle through all the junk you threw on top of the good stuff.

Christine Ashworth said...

Interesting points, Rachel! I'm not a skimmer myself - well, I am in the bookstore. But once I commit to a book, I'm there for every word, lol! Unless it becomes a wallbanger.

Anonymous said...

I'm a lover of white space, too!!!!

I agree with Kendall. Cut the Crap!

perisquire30 said...

I couldn't agree with you more on white space and description. I don't need to know what every single flower in the vase is in order to enjoy the story. I like a fast-paced thrill ride. And I am such a stickler about dialogue---make your characters speak in a way that's unique to them. It annoys me to read a story where the what comes out of these characters' mouths could easily be interchanged with characters in other books by other authors. None of us speak like our family members or friends, so why should our characters speak like other characters, right?

Thanks for your great post!

~Roni Lynne
YA Adventures in the Paranormal...and Beyond!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Perfect post, Rachel...just perfect!

MichelleKCanada said...

You actually pointed out all the things that drive me nuts so PERFECT.
I can't stand to click a page and the entire page is an entire page full of conversation and tag lines "she said" "he replied". Put some story with that conversation or I am totally fast fowarding until the lengthy convo is over.

Rachel Firasek said...

Kendall, yes, exactly! Cut the crap! ROFL

Christine, I envy you. I don't have that great of an attention span. lol.

Lynn, white space rules my world.

Roni, usually that means the author didn't come up with a unique characteR OR they've read a character's story too long before writing their own. I have to be careful not to read a series while I'm writing. lol

Julia, thanks so much

Kate said...

I agree with Rachel. I am also a stickler for skimming when authors don’t start a new line for each new speech. I find it very confusing and sometimes have to re-read a section. Its then I will start to skim.
Rachel Queen of the Sassy Street Sirens I have to say that you wrote that perfectly. Everything was very true to me too! Great minds think alike you know lol!

Theresa @ Fade Into Fantasy said...

I don't tend to be a skimmer unless the story simply doesn't hold my interest. When I'm reading a book, I want to absorb every word as I travel through the story.

I have to agree with the "cut the crap" statement. Too much fluff and my eyes go shut. lol

Aubrie said...

Very good advice! Sometimes I do writes dialog and it sounds like my granny! I have to go back and think about how the character would say it. Not me, or my granny for that matter!

Berinn Rae said...

Great steps! So true!

Best wishes with Piper's Fury. I can't wait to read it!

~ Babs ~ said...

I agree with all of these Rachel. I am a skimmer as well, if the story doesn't grab me. I have tried reading a book no matter what for years. Now, I don't have the patience for a book that has too many errors, the characters are going no where, or too much description. I read one book that I could not get past page 8 as the author had so many run on sentences. It was driving me crazy. On the other hand, another book was going into so much detail I knew the room from top to bottom and side to side. It took 6 pages to tell all about it. That is too much. I want to know what the characters are doing, where they are going. I want to be taken to a far away place and escape reality. I don't want to be bored to tears.

Boone Brux said...

I love me some white space too, Rachel! Skimming ensues for me when a writer rehashes what the character is thinking, feeling, what the possible outcome for the future is, then rehash their feelings about about this new aspect of their life, maybe ask several rhetorical questions(guilty). Well, you get the idea.:)


catherine said...

Excellent points, Rachel. Though I have to admit, I do like long-winded descriptions as long as they're well-written. Paragraphs of lyrical, mythical writing that set a scene and draw me into a place that I'd never experience without the author. I love them. Examples...Morgan Llywelyn, Marion Zimmer Bradley, their writing makes me want the book to never end.

Lisa Kessler said...

White space is defintiely your friend! :)

And I love dialogue!!! If characters never talk I'm sad!

Great list Rachel!!!


Jus Accardo said...

Great post, Rachel!

"Check out your facts. If you're going to write about something that's not familiar to you, do a bit of research. I hate catching an author's errors when it should be a subject that they've researched."

This is a biggie for me! I've read stuff that's SO obviously been done without any research and it drives me nuts!

Patricia Eimer said...

You've hit my number one pet peeve! I hate reading an author who obviously hasn't done her research.

Just Another Face said...

Bravo Rachel! There is nothing more annoying to me than whiny characters! Nothing like having a hunky bad boy complain about his shoes...lol Also, spell-check please! I hate reading books where someone can't keep the grammatical errors down to a few or be able to blame it on the conversion process to e-book status. When you mean "Awe" and all of them come out "owe", it loses it's meaning. If I'm not hooked by the first paragraph, then I don't normally read it!

Autumn Shelley said...

Hi, I'm Autumn, and like Christine, I'm NOT a skimmer...most of the time. Until the author does something..like one of those things you mentioned...then I start to skim. Oh no, is this my epiphany for the day??? Ha! >wink< Great article, and good stuff to keep in mind!

Rachel Firasek said...

Michelle, I normally don't use dialogue tags. Instead I have to watch for action tags sprinkled in too much. lol. Thanks for coming by!

Kate, I knew there was a reason I adored you! :) You brought up another good point. Learn how to break down a paragraph. I still get confused sometimes, but that's why I have writing buds to bounce rules off of.

Theresa, you are one I would call loyal to the word. Christine is like that too, but not me. I'll throw a book to the side if it's boring me. I'm a product of the world we live in today. lol

Traci Bell said...

I agree wholeheartedly, Rachel. Especially with the description. Books with too much description lose me.

Katrina W said...

Interesting - I dont like a whiny character, but I do enjoy descriptions in a book. Im a visual reader, I like to know what a character looks like but not as far as the colour of her nail polish, to much mumbo jumbo, gets tiring, I dont normally skim but in some circumstances, aka whiny characters, to much indepth details, where it drags for a page long, I tend to skim. Not often this happens, but I am not one to give up on any read, I read till till the end. Some great pointers . and agree with everyone no crap or you find you loose interest..

Rosalie Lario said...

I definitely have to agree with the white space. I like to know a book will have lots of dialogue; that's where stories really shine, IMHO.

Krystal said...

I agree with the "keep the language consistent" remark. I have read far too many books with dialogue starting off as a southern accent and transitioning into "regular" talk. I love that you mention keeping everything short and sweet and cutting out the unnecessary. I hate to slog through unnecessary words. Great post!

Patrica C. Lee said...

I think you've brought home many points that others think of subconciously. I only skim if the details pull me away from the plot.

A good friend of mine has taught me recently how to 'tighten'. The reader catches on really fast when there is a lot of filler in a book.

Rachel Firasek said...

Aubrie, I have to go over my dialogue, over and over! I hear ya!

Berinn, thanks sweets. I can't wait to read your new release too! Wish their was a pill that could slow down the world~and was legal. lol

Babs, you hit the nail on the head. I think books today read more and more like movies. I'm not opposed to it, but once we train the reader to read that way, lol, it's really hard to go back to the long method.

Boone, you picked out everything my editor has to make me add. I always tell them, "I don't need it." They like to say, uh, you're not the only one reading this. lol. I sprinkle, it's a happy compromise.

Catherine, I remember reading Steven King when I was a kid. He had a way of doing both. I think I stuck through those long pieces because he found a way to make them important. That's the key to making it work. Thanks for stopping in!

Lisa, with as much as you like to chat, I can't wait to read your books. :) I'm sure they'll be filled with fantastic dialogue.

Jus & Patricia, I hate research, but it doesn't mean I won't do it. I'm writing french dialect in my work right now, and I haven't had a french class in 16 years. Gah, much research + I'll probably hit up a Cajun friend or two. It's worth it in the long run.

JAF, wow, you just confirmed what I preach all the time. That first page is the most important. It's the sale of your words. Thanks for stopping and giving a readers perspective!

Autumn, I'm printing the list for revisions. It'll help put everything in the right light. I hope. ")

Traci, thanks for coming by girl. Entangled is the perfect example of the perfect amount of description. I didn't skim at all in that book. :) I remember the rocks being the measuring tools, like a mile marker and for a moment I thought I was on the same road as the hero and heroine. Perfect.

Kat, cut the crap may be my new mantra, lol. Thanks Kendall! I like details too, but only if they move the story further. Thanks for stopping by, chica!

Rosalie, I hear ya! Without fun and delicious dialogue, would you really know the characters?

Krystal, raising my hand here. I've been guilty of that in rough drafts, but that's all part of the revision process. lol.

Patricia, tightening take a real talent and some practiced skill. Good luck and isn't the writing world great! So many people willing to share their knowledge. :)

chelle2006 said...

I totally agree, Rachel! Especially with making each word could and with having some dialogue in there to break up the page. Seeing massive paragraphs is sometimes discouraging to readers. Even if I am completely loving a book, huge paragraphs make me think it is just going to be background info- setting stuff up for the next big scene and I want to skip right over it and get to the meat of the plot!

Great tips!



Heather Powers said...

I really like this post. You hit the right notes with me.
I like dialogue but make it interesting. I like to see the story flows and keep the movement. I'm finding this out as I am writing my book and I love the characters, they are always in my mind and sometimes pop into my dreams and converse with me there.
You need to stay connected to your characters and see what they have to tell you. Sometimes you might not like it but it usually makes their story better.


keizerfire said...

I love descriptive stories that let me really get into the scenes in the story myself, but it takes a special touch to do that. I really enjoy stories that set the scene without the reader even realizing they are being transported into another world. Another thing I've found when proofing and editing is that often the writer may not realize they have picked up a particular word or words and used them over and over in the story. For the reader, however, it can totally pull you out of the story to realize the author is overusing a specific word or phrase.

I do occasionally find myself skimming over parts in a story, and it usually means that the author had to pump up the number of pages. And of course, sometimes I just want to cut to the chase and get the heart of the story!

Rachel Firasek said...

Michelle, it sounds like you read the same way I do. Finding the meat is the important part, and if I can still read the book with all the skimming, then the author probably didn't need some of what I skimmed. :)

Heather, another character driven writer. I'm so glad to hear that your characters stalk and control you too. In my first draft I usually let them have their way. It's not until I yield the sword (red pen) that they are made to behave. lol

Keizer, there ya go. That's what I'm talking about. Even a lover of the description will skim if it's meaningless fluff. Great points. :)