The bits readers skip

skippingI think it was Elmore Leonard who wrote that writers shouldn’t write the bits that readers skip. I try to do that with my own work, writing what we call in the writer biz ‘tight’, in other words, there is no slack, every word counts. Maybe as I hone that more and more, I’m less forgiving of books that are padded. I’ve definitely been developing some bad reading habits lately. Maybe it’s because I’m pushed for time, maybe it’s because I’m a tight writer, as I said above, but the last few books I’ve read, I’ve skipped quite a lot.

The non-romances I’ve read, which have been the first two books in a private detective series, and a cozy mystery, I skipped the descriptions. Not all of them, but enough. The books were supposed to be suspenseful, and the description just dragged the pace down and I wanted to know what was going to happen, not hear about the layout of the woods and the stream, or hear about the way things worked in the hotel.

The romances – I’m afraid I skipped the sex scenes. I was glad the characters were getting it on, make no mistake :), but I didn’t really want pages and pages of details of what they were up to between the sheets.

In the mystery novels, I think I’d say the description should have been more subtly included, rather than info-dumped, and in the romance novels, I’d say the sex scenes should have been more about emotions and plot advancement, rather than physical acrobatics.

But maybe it’s not that. Maybe I’m just too impatient, and want to get on with the story, or I’m in too much of a rush, and should savour it more. I don’t remember being so quick to skip pages in the past, but then as I didn’t really miss much of the story–or it didn’t feel like I did–so maybe it’s not me.

I’ve decided to try harder to read the bits I want to skip, but if they truly don’t add anything, I’m giving myself permission to skip.

What about you? Do you skip paragraphs, and if you do, which bits do you skip?

photo credit: Womens Fitness Equipment Skipping Rope via photopin (license)

About Michelle Diener

Michelle Diener writes historical fiction and fantasy. To find out more about her and her novels, you can visit her website.
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6 Responses to The bits readers skip

  1. I used to love the Wheel of Times series by Robert Jordan. But then he started writing in pages and pages of descriptions and absolutely nothing would happen. I ended up skimming through those books, and I didn’t even finish the series.

    Maybe it’s me getting older, but I just don’t have the patience to read through all that description anymore.
    Jennifer Estep`s last blog was …Bright Blaze of Magic, Black Blade #3, up for pre-order …

    • That’s me, too! I wonder if we just don’t have time, or if we expect the plot to move at a certain pace. But some books have great description, but it’s so carefully and skilfully placed, it doesn’t slow the plot. I love it when I find books like that 🙂

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    I skip sex scenes all the time. That’s why I decided to stop writing them in my book. If I don’t like to read them, then I don’t want to write them. And I recently read a 2-page book sample that was pretty much all description. As wonderful as the description was, I stopped reading and did not buy it. Like Jennifer, I don’t have the patience for description anymore – unless it’s hilariously funny, which no one does that I know of.

    • I don’t mind reading sex scenes if the protagonists learn something meaningful about each other during it. But if its just a description of what they did, however skilful and erotic, like you, I skip it.

  3. Mary Hughes says:

    Hi, Michelle,

    I often skip whole sections when I see what’s coming. I definitely skip more when I am pressed for time. When I have time, I’ll indulge the author 🙂 I have noticed that when I’m editing, I’m more likely to skip. Great topic!

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