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Tips to Become a Better Reader?

I've now found that I can read again... to a point, with this caveat: Only when I am not in full editor mode for my own work. When I'm in edit mode, forget it. Right now I am revising but off of an editor's notes (rather than self-editing) and while trying to incorporate a few beta reader notes. So, my brain is now able to read a book more or less for entertainment. Ok, more like a story-editor, I'm ignoring the little things, even flat-out mistakes, and reading to see how or if the story works.

An assist to this, I am beta reading a novel strictly for characterization, story, and all that, rather than for those other things that would slow my reading down. Mind you, I am reading this in a no edit mode to keep me from marking it up! LOL. But so far so good.

And I am trying to make it through a Sanderson novel while keeping my editor brain off, looking more at story points rather than the stuff that usually trips me up trying to read. It's a challenge, his writing is decent with flashes of very good and very ugh. But I persevere on the assumption that there is a reason for his success in storytelling and I am not going to get what that is without finishing, LOL.

Ever read the same again? Nope, haven't been able to do that for probably 25 years, but I'm doing better at it now than at any point in those years, where I've pretty much stuck to history if reading.
I'd written a long comment that I deleted that had something to do with age (mine) and The Age, but it can be summarized as this: What once could easily hook me no longer can, and for a substitute for disappointment I trend more toward the roulette wheel of television than novels whenever I want a bit of entertainment.
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toujours gai, archie
And here I thought I was alone in this.

I had blamed graduate school. As a historian, I learned to skim. I mean to skim ruthlessly. I could consume entire books looking for a single interpretive angle. I could "read" fifty books in a week.

After I got that wretched PhD, I started to read novels again. After I don't know how many, I realized I wasn't enjoying them. And I then realized it was because I was reading the poor things the way I had done research. Ruthlessly.

It took me a very long time to learn to slow down. To give the author an even break. I blamed grad school.

But maybe, just maybe, it was simply a matter of getting older.
But maybe, just maybe, it was simply a matter of getting older.

There was a time when pretty much any adventure tale involving elves and dwarves in addition to humans could hook me. The coming-of-age hero who is either prophesied or simply stumbles into power or trains up to be powerful was a trope that could hook me easily.

Separating age and The Age as causes isn't neat. The period of my life when I read the most was when I was a kid and then teenager living in a rural area with only four broadcast television networks. Summertime and weekends meant game shows, soap operas, and (on the weekends) sporting events and news shows occupying the airwaves during the day, none of which could occupy my attention for long. So many hours were spent reading.

RE: the old tropes that could easily hook me. They were new and amazing escapes. But I think that many of these fascinating fantasy tropes now suffer somewhat from what Sergei mentioned in an earlier comment: "been there, done that." Of course tropes aren't inherently bad. But their mere use isn't enough to hook me like before. A lot of the common story types aren't enough.

Well....maybe a short episode of television or a 2-hour movie doesn't require as much of a hook for me as a novel that's going to take significantly longer to finish. OTOH, visual media also doesn't have to worry so much about the written word for hooking me—and I wish more novelists would. Heh. (It's possible that age has brought a certain grumpiness, too.)
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For me it has to do with whether the story has me hooked. If it does, I read faster.

There are numerous factors involved in whether a story hooks me these days. Like others, if I feel like I've "been there, done that," then I'm not hooked, even though that same story might have sunk its hook in me deep in my youth. Similar to more of what others said, when I'm not hooked, the editor in me starts critiquing the story, which slows me down more. If the story has me hooked, my internal editor shuts down and I read for enjoyment and read fast. Should I then blame it all on my choice of what books to read? I'm trying to be supportive of indies, reading more of their works than those traditionally published, so maybe I am subjecting myself to lower quality writing...?

Ronald T.

It sounds like the "been there, done that" attitude is an admission that the reader has become jaded by reading too many novels in the same genre. Perhaps it's time to switch to something else for awhile.

And although I can see an advantage to speed-reading for certain undertakings, such as the pressures of grad school, that kind of reading gives only the barest essence of a story. It cannot give a reader what's most important: the heart of the story.

As some of you have suggested, it's time to slow down and enjoy every word. Speed disallows that. There is a heart and soul to a story well-written.

Business and school requirements demand that a reader be driven. But reading a novel is a completely different animal. To really enjoy it, you must slow down if you want to feel all it has to offer.

I suppose it's similar to having sex -- slow down and truly enjoy it.
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It sounds like the "been there, done that" attitude is an admission that the reader has become jaded by reading too many novels in the same genre. Perhaps it's time to switch to something else for awhile.


Personally, I do read a variety of genres. It's not always aspects of a genre that give me the "been there, done that" feel. Any story regardless of genre can have easily predicted situations, especially for readers who are also authors and have some understanding of how stories are constructed.


toujours gai, archie
How to become a better reader: slow down.

Give the author an even break. Give the author the sort of attention you hope your readers give to your own writing.

As an exercise, not as habit, try reading aloud. You may be both surprised and gratified.


I agree. slow down.

before I really learned a lot about writing I was a voracious and indiscriminate reader. I read fast, and I read a lot, and I read constantly...so there are a lot of books I've read that I don't actually remember.

I was a 1.6 novels a day reader. I set a goal to read 26 books this year, because I figured I could do it. But it also gives me time to really examine a book, not just on the nitpicky aspiring copy editor level (so annoying!) but to get into a craft analysis, if that's what I want to do. (I often do.)

Here's something that I've realized - Middles are really hard. Anyone who can write a good middle probably wrote a great book. I find it interesting how many books falter and stumble in the middle, and I'm determined to figure out what goes on in the middle 50% of the book that makes it such a difficult task.

Tim Reed

I have also slowed down a lot in recent years.

I blame my choice in author - once I read Tolkien and Algernon Blackwood...it was hard to go back to conventional fiction. Genius can sometimes smother a good quick read.


toujours gai, archie
In the early years of our marriage, I regularly read to my wife at night. I can recall reading Dune, as well as War and Peace. And LoTR, of course. Also read that one twice more aloud, once to my boys, then to my daughter. I'm a big advocate of reading aloud.

Except my own stuff, which stinks even worse when read aloud! :) But I do make myself do it, usually after doing the beta reader edits.