The Case for Slower Reading

October 11, 2011

Now that I’ve managed to download my three novels to Kindle, I’ve been reading the e-versions straight through, trying to judge them as if somebody else wrote them. The print versions came out in 2003 (Secretarial Wars), 2007 (The Rock Star’s Homecoming), and 2010 (Let’s Play Ball). It’s been quite a while since the final pre-publication read-throughs. While I can’t say such distance allows total objectivity, it’s a different perspective than the eye-glazing, last-minute proofreading I did when my main goal was to get rid of them and move on to something else.

Even after all that proofreading, including professional editing, they are not as error-free as they should be. A few formatting mistakes are to be expected in this new digital age. Grammatical slip-ups, while few in number, are grating. But on the whole, the digital revisits gave me the gratified feeling that for the most part, I realized the vision I had for each novel.

I wrote the kinds of books I like to read, but I suspect I’m not a typical modern reader. My idea of literary heaven is not an action-packed adventure story, but a leisurely tale with many characters. For example, Gail Godwin’s rich, complex tales about Southern families have incidents, but they serve mainly to delineate the characters. The characters are people you might meet on the street: not vampires, werewolves or zombies. One review of Let’s Play Ball accused me of losing control of the plot. I guess I’m guilty of losing this reader, but I maintain that the plot was sustained in the interactions between the characters from beginning to end. The reader lost patience. It takes time for these stories to unfold, and this is an impatient age.

The best part of self-publishing for me is that I can indulge my preference for character development over action. I advocate more careful reading for everyone, but it seems to be out of style. Slowness of plot would surely doom anyone trying to break into traditional publishing these days. But now a certain impatience has overtaken the self-publishing world as well. People are downloading hundreds of books at a time. Does that really allow enough time to absorb each story and to let it unfold?

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9 Responses to “The Case for Slower Reading”

  1. taureanw Says:

    Great post!
    I am used to reading a book a week & then I started reading the fantasy series Of Fire & Ice. Those books are HUGE & have a lot of different characters so I have been reading the 2nd book for nearly 3 weeks now & I’m only 75% of the way done. It is a little strange for me but I have to admit I am enjoying it. The character depth is fantastic & it is a very interesting story.

  2. Catana Says:

    I’m amazed at how many books some people claim to have read in a short time. I track my Goodreads’ friends reading because I’m always looking for something that’s actually worth my time. When someone puts up a new book every day or two, I have to wonder whether they’re absorbing anything or just consuming ephemeral entertainment.

    It’s a which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg thing. Are writers being told to keep the adrenaline pumping because that’s what readers want? Or are readers being trained to expect that because so many writers pile on the action and suspense, to the detriment of story and characterization?

    Everything I write is slow. If the reader can’t follow the clues to character or see the foreshadowing, they’re going to hate my books. Too bad. I love a long, drawn-out book full of interesting characters who have to work their way through their problems without a sword or a gun, or magic. So that’s the kind of book I write.

  3. Catana Says:

    If you don’t mind, could you tell me why posts and comments are password protected? Aside from not having any idea what password you’re talking about, you seem to be cutting off any chance of real conversation in the comments. Of course, if that’s what you prefer. . .

    • lgould171784 Says:

      Hi,
      I’m not sure what you mean. I didn’t know anything on this blog was password protected. I don’t want to cut off conversation in any way. But I’m still fairly new to this blogging business, so I could be doing numerous things wrong. If I am, I’d be grateful to be enlightened about it.

      • Catana Says:

        That’s very strange. After I posted my comment, there was a statement right above it that said it was necessary to sign in with the password in order to read comments. And the post ahead of mine, which shows now, wasn’t showing then. But the statement isn’t there now, and I can read all the posts, so maybe it was a WordPress glitch. WordPress has been doing some weird things lately. They just pop up and then go away. Anyway, I apologize for the confusion.

      • lgould171784 Says:

        Thanks for your quick response. I hope it was just a glitch, and not something I was doing out of ignorance!

  4. Catana Says:

    I can see all the comments now, so it had to be a glitch.

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