Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Reading

19 September 2017

Just recently I finished editing a novella for an author friend. While I was working on his book, I noticed several things about how I was reading it and did some thinking about the way I read.

I’ve always loved reading. The family story is that I was potty trained by being placed on the toilet and handed some books. If true, I’m sure they were suitable for my age.

In Junior High and High School, I quickly devoured every SF book in the school library, as well as other literature. SF, however, was my go to when looking for something to read. As to Westerns, I think I’ve read maybe six or seven in my lifetime. I’d also hit the base library (AF brat) and read just about everything SF they had. It was at this time that I also found Fantasy and began reading that genre as rabidly as I did SF. I was probably 14 when I read Lord of the Rings.

This love of reading almost got me into trouble in high school but thanks to a lovely English teacher, turned into a benefit instead. In the second week of a new school year, my English teacher caught me reading in the back of the classroom instead of paying attention. So, she sprung a pop quiz on us, based on the story she had been going over. The story was in the school textbook, and hadn’t been assigned to us as reading yet. I was one of the few to pass the quiz with a 100 grade, so she had me stop by after school. She then asked how I had done that and I explained I had already read the reader from cover to cover. After a few questions to verify I wasn’t just claiming that, we talked about moving me to her advanced reading program instead. The carrot for me was being able to read and the icing on the cake was learning how to speed read. By the end of the school year, I was pretty much reading one paperback a day on the bus to and from school and was reading at around 880 words per minute, tested.

Even now, I will read rather than watch TV. There has been a time or two when I’ve repeatedly told the family that there was a show on in 5 or 6 days that I wanted to watch, to make sure they were aware of my plans to watch it. Then that day I’d find a book and start reading. When the show came on, they tried to tell me and I told them I’d rather read this than watch that. That’s after reminding them for five straight days that I was going to watch this movie or whatever on Channel X at 7:30 PM. I’m sure there were some frustrated or dirty looks cast my way then!

I can read several books a day if I’m allowed to. That’s one reason I like ebooks: I only need to take my tablet with me and I have multiple entire series as well as stand-alone books readily to hand. Heck, I have an entire library with me. No risk of getting to book 2 in a trilogy and having to run around to find book 3. Or carry a stack of books on vacation. And yes, I still very much enjoy reading physical books, turning the pages and having that weight.

That’s my background. I’m a reader, born and bred.

So, to the point of this blog post. It turns out that I have different reading modes, at least four that I’m aware of. No surprise there as I think everybody does, actually. After thinking about how I read and the different “modes”, I find the differences intriguing.

If I’m reading for my own pleasure, I pretty much zone out everything but the words before me. I’m still aware to some small extent what’s going on around me; being deaf I tend to automatically be aware of my surroundings, at least to some extent, as a safety measure. And, yes, I do get irritated when my reading is interrupted.

Speaking of getting interrupted, my wife has this uncanny knack of always interrupting me when I’m in the middle of some battle scene, engrossing dialogue or other action. I logically know it’s not premeditated, but I can’t help wondering why she never seems to interrupt in the boring parts of the book.

Anyway…

The first mode is typically reading at full speed. Some books, especially non-fiction, I read the fastest. I’ve not tested in a long time, but I’m pretty sure I’m not reading at my original 880 WPM now, but more likely closer to 500 to 600 WPM. In this mode I will slow down at certain parts, such as detailed descriptions of interesting techniques or explanations. I also use this mode with heavily embellished fiction, such as where they describe what someone’s wearing down to the thread count or every leaf on every tree in the park the characters are in. Those sections, I read as fast as I can without actually skipping them entirely.

The second mode is reading at a slower rate, probably down around 300 to 400 WPM. This is reserved for books I’m really enjoying, books that I’m savoring. Even with these, I’ll sometimes speed up over what I consider unnecessary detail, as mentioned previously. This is probably where I read most SF and Fantasy, especially my favorite authors.

Those two modes above, I start at the first word of the book and read straight through to the end. I’m simply reading for enjoyment or education.

For mode three, I’ve noticed that when I do a preliminary edit, whether my own writing or someone else’s, I read at a much slower speed. It’s not so much that I’m reading as it is I’m looking for discrepancies. I’ll read a ways, then see something that doesn’t click, read it again, mark it up or verify the discrepancy then mark it up. In this state, I’m also marking up misspellings, typos, grammar that really stand out. Right now, I’m not necessarily looking for particular wordsmithing problems, I’m looking for issues in the story itself. I am, however, not willing to put up with glaring English errors, either. While in the previous two modes I would grimace and keep reading, momentarily irritated with the author for not doing his work, this time if it jumps out at me I won’t hesitate to write it up. On the whole, though, I’m almost reading like I do for fun. Just more deliberately, and with an eye out for glaring story line or grammatical errors. At this rate, it can take me a couple days to get through a book.

The final mode is a full on editing mode. This is the slowest mode of all for me. It’s also one of the more intensive reading modes, a point that surprised me. Here, I’m doing all that I do in the preliminary edit, but where there I only go back to check something, here I’m constantly going back a paragraph or page and re-reading from there. I’m constantly unconsciously asking myself questions: Did this flow properly? Could this really happen this way? Didn’t she sit down a couple paragraphs ago? Can a ship really do that? Would he really speak like that? Does this read like an insert by the author trying to explain something directly to the reader? Is this grammatically correct? Would the reader understand this reference? Is this spelled right? To vs too vs two and other such critters.

As an example of reading progress while editing, consider any consecutive pages of a book. I’ll read page 1 halfway, go back a couple of paragraphs, study a sentence or two, figure out what’s wrong with it that grabbed my attention, mark the correction, continue reading from that point. After several times doing this as I work my way down the page I’ll eventually finish that page and start on page 2. Then I go back to that last nagging paragraph on page 1 and resume from there. When I get that taken care of, I continue reading anew from that point. After a few paragraphs, I’ll go back to a previous paragraph and study it…why did that demand my attention now? I’ll even read ahead past some error to see if it’s explained or accounted for in the next several paragraphs. If not, I go back, make my comments, and resume reading there even though I’ve already read ahead. And so it goes for the whole book, constantly going back and forth by sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters until eventually I reach the end of the book.

When I hit something that I think is wrong, I’ll look for the answer and try not only to comment on the error, but suggest a fix and provide helpful information to avoid that error in the future. I’ll spend several minutes on two sentences, trying to see what made me pause and see how to fix it. It might be voice, it might be tense, it might be grammar, or it might be English. Maybe it’s inconsistent based on a previous book or drawing or model. Perhaps it’s illogical, written that way to accomplish the author’s goals. Maybe it’s physically impossible. Something made me pause here, and I intend to discover what it was. By the time I have finished the book, I have probably read every page three or four times on this one pass from the first to the last words of the novel. This mode of reading can take me at least a couple of weeks, if not more, to read the same book that took me a mere couple of days in the preliminary edit.

I guess it’s to my advantage that I can “forget” most of what I’ve read last time when I re-read a book. I like re-reading a book and being able to enjoy it all over again. I always find something new, some new insight to the characters or some new appreciation for some action or dialogue that comes from knowing but not necessarily consciously remembering what’s going to happen later. This also comes handy when editing as it allows me to maintain a fresh perspective rather than having in the back of my mind that nagging that I’ve already checked this once. Since I never really forget what I’ve read, mention of something at odds with previous pages, stories or books related to what I’m editing tends to pop into mind when needed.

Well, there you have it. I don’t know if this is interesting or useful to anyone else, but it was fun writing up how I read.

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It’s Official

5 November 2014

I’ve been keeping quiet about this aspect of the stressful happenings over the last month until I had my official notification. Now that I have it, it’s kind of an odd sort of relief I’m experiencing.

By the time it happens, I’ll have had 39 years 9 months with HP.

Yup. I’m retiring with my official retirement date being 31 May 2015.

It was very much a last minute thing. I had been planning on working until I was 65 and then retiring. I love my job, but I’m beginning to get burned out and I’d rather “quit while I’m ahead” as it were. It’s not just work, but things going on in my life outside work as well that made me finally decide.

I’m still getting my own head around the idea. It’s one thing to make plans for your retirement, to say, “I’ll retire once I get to [insert desired endpoint]” but it’s quite another to make the final decision and even more so to actually put in for retirement.

Even though once I made the decision it was like a load was lifted, there was still some uncertainty I didn’t even realize was there. It wasn’t until, having received confirmation of my intended retirement date that I discovered there was still a good amount of unease remaining despite having made the decision to retire. Now that it’s locked in and there’s no going back, another layer of stress seems to have been removed, one that I didn’t even know existed.

I’m sure that between now and 31 May 2015, there’s going to be continued nervousness and a building trepidation until I actually walk out the door that final time.

Make no mistake…I’m looking forward to that day. I’m curious to see what life brings my way in this new undertaking. I’ve got plans of things I want to do. No, yard work isn’t one of those things I’m looking forward to. I am, however, looking forward to more time for photography, astrophotography, writing, reading, woodworking, amateur radio, and programming.

Of course I’d like to do some traveling and more exploring of the back roads. A little fishing, maybe some hunting again. But mostly, I’m eager to have the time I want when I want it for photography and woodworking.

And of course, more time for this blog.

Time Out

2 April 2014

I’m a bit ambivalent about this particular post, as I don’t know if it’s what I really, really want to do. Perhaps it’s driven by Spring fever, cabin fever, or the constantly overcast, sun-robbing weather. Whatever the reason, I’m walking away from this blog for a bit.

This blog, Bill’s Meanderings, just weighs on me more than I like right now. I’m always aware of it in the background, the constant, albeit self-imposed, weekly deadline, but most of all, I’m very much aware that it has no “direction” at all.

I’ll still post here from time to time, for example if I put out the new Pa’adhe short story. If there’s something I really want to share I’ll post it. I’ll check for any comments awaiting moderation. But that’s all I plan to do for a while.

It feels like I need to take some time away from here and think about where I really want to go with this blog. Astronomy/Astrophotography? Ham radio? Photography? Writing? Outdoors? Continue rambling? Drop it entirely? What?!?!?

The same goes for my Tales of Pa’adhe.

Yeah, I heard those groans from all three of you that actually read any of the Tales on your own. Sorry about that, truly.

This latest tale has the final feedback in to me, but I just have no interest in doing the last bit of editing and getting it out there. I’m sure I will, eventually, but right now…meh.

Maybe it’s tied to the same reasons as walking away from this blog. Only, in addition to that, it seems like I’m now writing for the three readers I have and not for myself or for the Tales. It’s not quite so much fun any more. I used to love looking at the map of Tenalpa and dreaming about new voyages, new challenges, new places to add to the map. Maybe there’s an unknown island here…that kind of stuff. Now, I look at the map and just think how pretty it is as a fantasy map. I don’t see any new voyages in my mind like the map is a real window into the Captain’s world. I haven’t added any new Pa’adhe story ideas to my idea file in almost a year. I used to add one every two months or so.

Yet, I don’t see myself giving up either the blog or the Tales, at least not right now. I need a respite, a Caamora or a Walkabout if you will.

When things like this are no longer fun, it’s time to step aside and try to find out why they’re not and how to make them so again. If there’s no way to make them fun again, then it’s time to move on to a new whatever. I’m at that point, I think, and since I don’t want to quit writing these yet, I’m hopeful that indicates there’s still an enjoyment factor and I just need to get away for a bit.

So, I’m going to focus on some other things like Morse code, astrophotography and time lapse projects, staying up with a tub of icecream reading into the wee hours until I can no longer stay awake, programming the Arduino or Raspberry Pi or Android phone for some ideas I have, re-reading some old favorites, re-watching the entire Lord of the Rings in one go, exploring the Owyhees…just random fun stuff.

For the serious side, I want and need to focus on studying for my Extra ham license. This General is ready to upgrade.

Check in from time to time, if you’re not automatically notified, as I’ll probably post something every once in a while.

In a while, crocodile.