Novels: Savoring every word

Slow down.

I have to remind myself to do that when I am reading fiction.

It’s a different matter in my job as an editor at the newspaper. There, I need to get through the copy as quickly as possible. Yes, that’s what we call the articles you read in your morning newspaper or in the online editions: copy.

But it would be an insult, I think, to refer to someone’s novel as “copy,” unless you happen to be the copy editor going through it for the publisher. Then, you don’t get to savor the writer’s words so much — their imagery, their symbolism, their soulful reflections. You’re too busy making sure every brick in the wall fits properly.

After a very long leave from fiction, I’ve read three books (fiction) in the past two weeks. Yup. I tore through them, not only because it is my work habit to read quickly, but also because I needed to know: what happens next!?

But I regret not taking the time to savor at least one of those books — and I know I will have to go back and read it again, just as I would watch a good TV show or a movie a second time. We always pick up on things we missed the first time. (And that applies to editing copy for a newspaper, by the way. Most articles get two or three reads before you see them in print.)

Now I am reading a delightful book by Sarah Ettridge — Threaded Through Time — that is so wonderfully crafted that I am pledging to myself to take it slowly. No more reading bits on my smartphone between assignments at work, for example. I’m limiting myself to a chapter or two a day, early in the morning or late at night. It won’t be so easy, because I am so caught up in the story. I wanna know what happens next! lol.

I guess that is the mark of a good writer: when the reader is hooked from the opening paragraph (the lede, in the newspaper business) and is champing at the bit for more, you’ve got a hit on your hands.

And Threaded Through Time is the best of the books I’ve been reading these past two weeks. So, I’m going to take it slowly, and savor as much as I can in Sarah’s writing.

I do have to grit my teeth at times and get used to the differences in presentation styles between news copy and novels. For example, at my paper and probably at most others, quotes from subjects in our articles are always started on a new line. But not so in novels, I’ve discovered: Quotes are thrown in with descriptive paragraphs. It takes some getting used to.

There are a few other niggling things that would only bother a nitpicking copy editor, so I won’t get into them here, except to say that I am noticing that the editing jobs in some books are better than in others. I really don’t know a lot about the book publishing business, but I imagine they face some of the same issues we do in the newspaper business.

Sarah’s book, though, is very well edited. And it flows so well. But I am determined to savor it, even though I will probably read it a second time. From what I can see so far, it is perfect movie material as well. Will review it here when I am finished it.

How about you? Do you find yourself tearing through fiction? Or do you like to take it slowly?

— Jillian

Photo credit: Foter.com

2 thoughts on “Novels: Savoring every word

  1. Take it slowly – usually.
    At present I am reading all the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis – supposedly children’s stories but with adult/spiritual overtones to discerning readers. C.S. Lewis was originally atheist, but became a Roman Catholic. Those stories have delightful writing, and need to be taken slowly.
    For your future reading: ‘The Father Al Takes a Vacation’ trilogy by T.H. (Tom) Pine. It explores, in a future setting, many of the topics you are interested in: spirituality, artificial intelligence, clothes-free living, relationships, ‘and much more!’ Available on Kindle.
    You wrote “…Most articles get two or three reads before you see them in print…” Really? I usually find several misuses of words that sound similar (their, there, they’re) in Calgary Herald articles, as well as articles truncated at the foot of a column by the person who used to be the typesetter. Automated spellcheckers can check spelling, but not the proper uses of words.

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    1. The Narnia series are the nicest books I have ever read. I read them as a child, and then again to my children. I plan to read them again at least once more in my life.

      As for newspaper articles appearing with errors, yes, it is happening more often now as papers get rid of copy editors. It is more common to see the errors in online editions, whereas print editions have more eyes looking at them before they hit the presses.

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