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Tip Tuesday #161

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Heather Villa is a freelance writer and the author of past Tip #150. You can find her at her website, Heather Villa Writers, and on Twitter. Enjoy!

Words to Savor 

The power of written words, nestled within a series of ideas is hopefully never overlooked. Unfortunately, written words aren’t always received in the manner authors intend to convey. The blame doesn’t necessarily fall to the author. A voracious reader, recklessly whizzing through sentences, may sacrifice absorbing the essence of words and ideas.

 Let’s look at the evolution of a fast reader who transformed into a slow reader.

A nine year old girl awarded a blue ribbon for the most books read over the course of summer, continued to receive reading contest awards year after year.

Eventually, she was introduced to the classics, and her teachers assured her that she was prepared to succeed in college. After all, she was one of the top students in the college preparatory English class and gladly read whatever was assigned.

Later, as a university student, she regularly and hastily raced against the rising sun, barely realizing that the required reading was obviously too much to properly digest. Her reading pace accelerated on the night that she consumed an entire pot of black coffee while skimming through a 500 page novel about European history, never taking a moment to appreciate the author’s research or the book’s literary merit. A few hours later, she was too tired to adequately contribute to the history class discussion.

The temptation to recklessly read continued after graduation, especially when she only had a precious window of time to call her own. During a daily bus commute, the former student read novels for pleasure with such intensity, that sometimes her heart raced, as she tried to finish a chapter before the bus reached her final destination.

After the woman’s daughter was born, novels were replaced by parenting books and picture books. With a toddler by her side, the new mother regularly perused the local library’s children’s section in search for brilliant books, carefully selecting the perfect read, enjoyable to both parent and child. When the mother slowly read books out loud to her child, something amazing happened. The woman’s internal reading speed seemed to recalibrate.

The former speed reader recognized that she felt relaxed when she read slowly and she yearned to leisurely read more books. She started to slowly read the words in books, magazines, blogs, and newspapers, wondering how much she previously missed. Then the woman decided to read a book that she disliked the first time around. The second time around, she lingered between the pages and fell in love with the story. The reader savored the words and perhaps the author’s intended message was truly understood.

Are you, too, a speed reader? Did you find yourself quickly reading this post? The following suggestions are ways to intentionally downshift your reading speed:

• Read poetry
• Read out loud
• Slowly and silently read only one chapter of a novel
• Read a book that you may have previously read quickly, slowly
• Read a genre that you don’t normally read
• Listen to someone else read out loud
• Think quality over quantity
Savor the words and you will experience the various layers of literature.

~Heather Villa


Steve MC said...

This reminds of the film "Reuben, Reuben," where a man who runs a speed-reading course brags that his star pupil read War and Peace in 55 minutes, and the poet he's having dinner with looks sad to hear it, and says he'd pay vast sums for someone to teach him how to read his favorite books as slowly as possible.

Beth said...

Beautiful. I don't think it's a coincidence that I fell in love with books all over again when I started to read out loud to my young daughters.

Kimberly Gabriel said...

What a lovely post. I should share this with my middle school students. ;)

Natalie Aguirre said...

I do tend to read too fast. I've found I miss things and have sometimes gone back to re-read the first few chapters of a book. Thanks for reminding us to slow down in our reading and enjoy it.

Kim Van Sickler said...

Agreed. Lingering over a good book turns reading from a job into a pleasure. I love to reward myself with reading at the end of a long day.

Deborah Rocheleau said...

I've always been a slow reader. When I try to speed up, though, I can't enjoy the writing as much. Maybe slow reading isn't so bad.

Theresa Milstein said...

I have been a speed reader, which tends to kick in during exciting scenes. When this happens, I go back and reread those sections after I've finished the book. I've learned to slow down and appreciate the writing during other sections.

Kristin Lenz said...

I love this - you could have been describing me! And yes, I started to race through this post and then I slowed down as your message resonated. I've gone through different phases of reading over the years depending on my free time and mood. Reading out loud with my daughter has been a wonderful, story savoring experience.

professorjoe42 said...

Sometimes I find myself going back and re-reading a paragraph, just to make Sir that I was able to fully appreciate it. I suppose I wouldn't rush through a delicious meal of Filet Mignon, why rush through an experience that is equally as satisfying. Thanks.

mshatch said...

I do read too fast sometimes. Thanks for reminding me to savor the words.

Heather Villa said...

I'll add the film to my "must watch" list. I'll try and track it down. Thank you!
Heather Villa

Heather Villa said...

Children's books truly can restore an appreciation of literature.
Thanks for stopping by, Beth!
Heather Villa

Heather Villa said...

Wow. Thank you, Kimberly!
Heather Villa

nutschell said...

I do admit, I do tend to be a speed reader when it comes to reading fiction. I just want to find out what happens next! thanks for this great reminder to slow down and enjoy. :)

Heather Villa said...

Reading slowly continues to be my struggle. This morning as I read a chapter of the House Girl the descriptive sentences thankfully forced me to shift to a slower gear.

By the way, the entirety of this blog site is so helpful. What you and Casey do is appreciated.
Thank you! :)

Heather Villa

Heather Villa said...

What a wonderful way to end a day!
Thanks for “lingering” at this post, Kim.
Heather Villa

Heather Villa said...

The statement “Quality over quantity” rings true!
Happy reading!
Heather villa

Heather Villa said...

The same thing happens to me!
Heather Villa

Heather Villa said...

Thank you for “slowly” reading the post, Kristin.
Even though my daughter is reading books on her own, my husband and I continue to read out loud to her.
Thank you for sharing.
Heather Villa

Heather Villa said...

Sometimes I read a sentence three or four times. Really, I do!
Aren't you a vegetarian? :)
Heather Villa

Heather Villa said...

Happy to help!
Heather Villa

Heather Villa said...

So true! Enjoy whatever book or books you're currently reading. Thanks so much for reading this post.
Heather Villa

Jocelyn Rish said...

This could be me (well, except the kid part). In school and in my twenties I tore through books as fast as I could. But once I started writing seriously, I slowed waaaaaay down. Now I linger over every word and punctuation mark. In some ways it's good that I've learned to savor the craft. But now I read so slowly that I'm not able to get to anywhere near the number of books I should be reading.

Brenda said...

Only recently have I slowed down in my reading and find it more satisfying. Thanks for the nice reminder.

Heather Villa said...

Hello Jocelyn,
I can relate. I used to read several books practically at once (or so it seemed. I hope now that I truly appreciate and recognize literary greatness when I read it. And the more I write (it’s a process for me), the more I marvel at others’ amazingly crafted sentences.
Thanks for your thoughts!
I wrote on another comment the phrase that we've all heard before...Quality over quantity.
Best wishes to you.
Heather Villa

Heather Villa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather Villa said...

You are most welcome, Brenda.
Thank you for "slowly" reading the post.
Heather Villa

Crystal Collier said...

I tend to have the opposite problem--absorbing every word, savoring every page... See, this is why I need my time-stopper, if the scientists in my basement will just finish it already!

Heather Villa said...

Yes, a time-stopper would be nice. Let me know when the scientists in your basement finally figure it out. :)
Thanks for stopping by.
Heather Villa

Cynthia said...

I'd like to add that if you're bilingual, reading anything that's not written in your native language can help you slow down your reading speed.

Heather Villa said...

That's so true! Thanks for mentioning another "slow reading" tip.
Heather Villa

Anonymous said...

I am, by nature, a slow reader (I never mastered that whole read an entire book in a day or over a weekend). I find myself reading and rereading sentences, even paragraphs. Does this mean I retain more? Heck no, when you tackle that question, let me know.
Reading out loud is a great way to slow down, plus if you read aloud what you have written, you are bound to hear a mistake or two your eyes have overlooked.

Heather Villa said...

Thanks for visiting this post, dear sister!
I've never seen you without a book in tow. You've suggested some of the best books I've ever read. And you were reading books before you mastered your bike.
Yes, reading out loud is a perfect way to catch pesky errors grammatical or otherwise. Thanks for mentioning that.
Retention! Yep...I need to work on that one too.

Denise Covey said...

As a voracious reader, I know the difference between racing through books (4 at a time) and savouring a book. The classics definitely have to be savoured, but many modern books don't offer the same amount of delicious language to make me want to stop and smell the roses.

Rosi said...

This is really nice. Thanks for posting it.

Tammy Theriault said...

i can read some MG books fairly fast...but a YA or NA, i tend to take my type with the words. great post!

Heather Villa said...

Thanks for your insight, Denise. Reading is like driving. There are certainly different speed limits to consider.
Heather Villa

Heather Villa said...

You are so very welcome, Rosi.
Heather Villa

Heather Villa said...

Thanks for stopping by! Thanks for sharing.
Heather Villa

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Heather,

Terrific tip...

I love to savor words, so read slow enough to absorb... I am a very detailed oriented writer and I would hope that when my works are read the reader will appreciate the time I had spent to convey the subtle nuances of my prose.

Heather Villa said...

Hello, Michael,

I think it's important to remember that everyone wants to be heard.

I know of a writer who has spent such care perfecting the first chapter of a novel. I'm sure that when she's all done, she too, will hope that the readers absorb her words. The case is true for any writer.

Best wishes to you and writing and reading.

Heather Villa

Anonymous said...

I used to read really fast in college and for a time I wasn't really enjoying books.

Sometimes, if I'm under stress and in a rush to read a book, it happens again, but I'm more aware of it happening for me to slow myself down.

Heather Villa said...

Hello, Medeia,
Sounds like me. I still find myself rushing when I read, from time to time.
Thanks for stopping by this post.
Heather Villa