Friday, October 7, 2011

Avoiding the "Skim Zone"

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as thought writer had stated them -- Ernest Hemingway

I also remember reading somewhere that a writer should only write what the reader will read, implying that there should be no skim-worthy prose in what we write.

I'm a novel writer trying to write flash or micro fiction for Avenir Eclectia. It is a true challenge to get "The Big Picture" down in micro sound bites. Even though I look at each piece as a chapter to a whole, they are very short chapters. AND the power in each chapter has to be ramped up, no setting or info dump filler allowed.

This became abundantly clear when I had a 'chapter' that I was working on and it wasn't working. Long and short, I realized that it simply wasn't powerful enough nor important enough to justify its existence on Avenir Eclectia.

So what did I do?

The only thing I could do.

I scrapped the whole piece.

It was painful but doable. And ultimately, it was a blessed release to let the thing go rather than to fight with it to make it into something it couldn't be. The important information that I wanted to convey will make an appearance as a sentence or two in another piece that will keep the reader reading and avoid the "skim-zone".


  1. Well said.
    I had a ton of trouble with this when I first started playing with the concept of flash fiction a couple of years ago. I actually found that it helped to study haiku, cinquain, and other very restrictive types of form poetry. Once I learned to craft a picture or description or message or to narrate a moment within the bounds of 17 syllables or 5 lines or whatever the case was, I found that it was much easier to write a story in 300 words or less.

  2. You know, Mary, you've mentioned haiku and such before. And I have a vague memory of it in high school.
    But do you have a post or talk about it somewhere on your blog.
    If not, do you want to write a guest post about it for my blog?