Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On Proctorizing

I am a notoriously picky reader.  I have such a reputation for abandoning books half-read that my writers' group has coined a word for the act of giving up on a book without finishing it: they call it "proctorizing." As in, "This book was so boring, I finally proctorized it."

I haven't always been this way. Time was, once I started a book, I'd plow through to the end largely I suspect because the idea of NOT finishing it--of judging it--never occurred to me. But once I started writing, I carried the habit of scrutinizing word choice and pacing, characterization and plot structure from my own work to the books I was reading. I grew impatient. My To Be Read pile was growing, my time for reading shrinking. I started proctorizing. Sometimes I would proctorize half a dozen books in a row--books by very successful NYT bestselling authors I won't name because this is a small business and saying nasty things about other authors can come back to bite you in the ass. The list of authors I enjoy is short. My editor once actually snapped at me for this, because editors like to ask their writers' favorite authors for quotes.

Then, about a year ago, I decided I needed to break this proctorizing habit. And so, when an author started losing me, I didn't allow myself to put the book down but would plow through determinedly to the end. As a result, I read a string of books by popular authors whose works I'd never been able to finish. And you know what? At the end of each one, I found myself thinking, "Well, that was a waste of time."

A couple of weeks ago, I gave myself permission to abandon my short-lived resolution and go back to proctorizing. Life is too short, and my TBR pile too high (piles, actually; that's a photo of one, above). Ironically, I then stumbled upon a book I thoroughly enjoyed--The Two Minute Rule, by Robert Crais. For years, one of the members of my writers' group has been singing Crais's praises, but while I'd added a couple of his books to my TBR pile, I'd never been able to bring myself to try one largely because this friend (sorry, Sphinx Ink!) also absolutely loves a certain other bestselling author whose popularity mystifies me. Crais does not have the literary inclinations of James Lee Burke or Martin Cruz Smith (my two favorite mystery/thriller writers); he's a Hollywood screenwriter, after all. But I found this particular book brilliantly plotted and emotionally satisfying. So I tried one of Crais's Elvis Cole books and found it, again, masterfully plotted, gripping, and frankly fun. So I've looked up his backlist and I'm dizzy with delight at the thought of all those books I now have to read.

So, what about you? Do you proctorize books?

56 comments:

mk said...

I never used to proctoring, but I'm like you. Too many books in my TBR pile,not enough time. And if I DO finish one I really didn't like when I was partway through, I have the same thought at the end- what a waste of reading time!

Susan J. said...

I do tend to browse some factual books, I tend to go through the index and look interesting looking things up and end up reading most of the book that way. I read novels from start to finish, except maybe those of Dickens though! I skipped some of the aside stories people tell in 'The Pickwick Papers' for instance.
My husband Steve really likes Martin Cruz Smith also, as well as Michael Connelly and Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther novels.

cs harris said...

mk, yes, with reading time at such a premium, I've become even more impatient lately.

Susan, I haven't read Kerr; will have to try him. Has your husband read John Connolly? He's a wonderful writer, although his books are so dark I need to space them out.

Charles Gramlich said...

I still don't quit books but my version of proctorizing is that I speed read them, essentially scanning as I go through them. I don't do this terribly often but certainly on occasion. In the last few years I've actually read relatively few big publisher releases and mostly small press or independent releases. Most of those, although not all, have actually held my interest.

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

Yes, I do 'proctorize.' I didn't for the longest time, but now there is so much formulaic storytelling out there that I just cannot forgive the technical sins and the drain on my time and energy. It is so sad to read something that is just - poof! - forgotten. Now, Arkady Renko in "Gorky Park," Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig in "All the Light We Cannot See" ... they are company I like to keep, like Sebastian and Hero.

Suzanne said...

I proctorise too. The only time in my life when I really couldn't get away with it was the books we had to read for English class during high school and it nearly drove me mad. Like Susan I found Dickens really tough going and when I had to read Great Expectations it was thrown at the wall numerous times during the term. It was so boring. Like Charles if I am getting bored with a book and find it is going nowhere I will speed read forward a bit and then ditch it.

In my book group a few of the people read all the prize winning or trendy books of the moment and so many times they don't enjoy them but feel they have to read them. Life is just to short to waste time on that. I read what I enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm big into proctorizing. I read the first couple chapters and if it doesn't catch my interest, it's done. My friend, Becky, who you met with me here in Seattle will forge through just about every book she starts, even if she hates it. I sometimes admire her perseverance, but on the whole I'm with you. If you aren't enjoying it, why bother. Many mystery series I had begun have fallen to the wayside. As you say, very formulaic and sometimes the characters are just so silly -making the same stupid mistakes over and over. So, yes, I'm I total agreement. Sabena

Lynne said...

OMGoodness, Candy - were we separated at birth? After I stopped laughing at the word - which I may very well adopt - I thought that my reading patterns are just like yours. For years I would feel guilty when found I book I just couldn't finish unless I forced myself. But at some point I reached the same decision as you: There are too many books I want to read (and many I'd like to reread) and the piles aren't shrinking...and I'm not getting any younger. As Suzanne says - life's too short! And your quote, after finishing a book grudgingly, just cracked me up. I've lost count of the times I thought the same thing. So "Proctorizing" it is from now on!

JustWingingIt said...

I'm not quite to the level of proctorizing yet. I still feel guilty if I don't finish a book as if it is somehow a failing on my part. I can see myself getting there eventually though. For now I heavily skim to the end of books that are not holding my interest. Baby steps. :)

Veronica

JustWingingIt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JustWingingIt said...

I'm not quite to the level of proctorizing yet. I still feel guilty if I don't finish a book as if it is somehow a failing on my part. I can see myself getting there eventually though. For now I heavily skim to the end of books that are not holding my interest. Baby steps. :)

Veronica

paz said...

It is not very often that I stop reading a book half way through -- but it does happen every so often. What I do is that if I am bored, I skip to the end (another no no, I guess). Then, perhaps like someone else already suggested -- I randomly go back and forth reading chunks and chapters until I fill the major points of the narrative arc. Sometimes I find something that I like, and I become 'reinvested" in the book. But there are times that not even this "hopscotch" approach will make up for a prepostuous storyline or character.

Susan J. said...

Candy: My husband has not read John Connelly but he says he might try one. He's not too keen on books too dark though, although he has all the Wallander books, and they are dark, I've read a few! He also likes Ian Rankin.
Suzanne: You might like 'The Pickwick Papers', although I skipped the extra stories that people tell through the book, it's very amusing and seems more from the Regency era than the Victorian, as it was published just before Victoria came to the throne. There are some wonderful characters in it, particularly Sam Weller, Mr Pickwick's faith ful servant, an astute cheeky chappy Londoner, who is always telling jokes that start "As the man said to the..." I had no idea that started so early!

Elaine P. said...

I used to be horrible about starting a book and then giving up on it. There are so many back cover blurbs that sound interesting but the actual book itself is very disappointing. The last couple of years I've been very picky about the books I've read, they have been mostly books by authors I am already familiar with and I've also been rereading a lot of books. I recently reread some of my old Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt and M.M. Kaye books I liked as a teen. Some of them held up better than others.

Anonymous said...

Just looked at the proposed cover for When Falcons fall. I thought in the story line Sebastian was dark in colouring so it surprised me when I saw the cover and he appears to be Blonde. Does not change how I feel about the series - just surprised me.

cs harris said...

Charles, I'll skim if I'm vaguely interested enough to see what happens. And I agree with you about so much of what NY turns out these days.

Barbara, I think that was what frustrated me the most about the "big" name authors whose books I plowed through. They were so formulaic and just lazy. I can't figure out who's buying and enjoying them.

Suzanne, when I was in high school it never occurred to me that I didn't have to finish a book. You wised up far before I did!

Sabena, I think you're right; a couple of chapters tell you what you need to know. It's funny because a couple of the books I read were ones I'd started before but quit after the first couple of chapters. And once I'd plowed through them, i realized I was right the first time when I'd put them down.

cs harris said...

Lynne, yes, I just gave up on another one last night. It's such a relief to go back to my old proctorizing ways! Too many books, too few years left.

Veronica, my friend Charles skims. He very, very rarely proctorizes. Actually, I think he may have coined the word.

Paz, I recently read an article about how with ebooks, publishers can now track how many people don't finish a particular book. I was surprised at how many people stop--particularly in the case of literary books that get a huge buzz.

cs harris said...

Susan, I recently reread Oliver Twist and was surprised by how darkly funny it was. I didn't remember that from reading it as a teenager.

Elaine, I'm always nervous rereading an old favorite, for fear I'll be disappointed. Lately I've had a yen to try an old Mary Stewart, so I may do it.

Anon, are you talking about the picture I used in the last thread? That's actually a crop from the KINGS cover. And I agree, he does look sort of blond in it, but I think it's the way the light hits the hair. At any rate, the new cover shows him with definitely dark hair. Hopefully I'll be able to post it soon.

Susan J. said...

Yes, as regards your re-reading of 'Oliver Twist', I think the books we read when young are not the same when we read them again when we are older. I think it was Virginia Woolf who said the Jane Austen we read at sixteen is not the Jane Austen we read at sixty.
This is a great post! I really like finding out how other people read. I do think you have to have patience sometimes, particularly with classic novels. I read 'Anna Karenina' last year and it was worth sticking with. A wonderful study of human nature, a really beautiful book.
When I was studying philosophy with The Open University in the evenings, I had to slow down my reading just to understand it but during the day I was working as a press reader for a press cutting agency and had to skim read newspapers and magazines! I felt as if I had a split personality!
My husband want's me to ask if you've read any John le Carre books? Another favourite of his.

Susan J. said...

Rogue apostrophe again, I mean wants!

cs harris said...

Susan, I actually think many of today's novels move too fast; a novel with depth and characterization can often require a bit of "slowness" at the beginning. When an author loses me after a few chapters, it's often because I find the writing style grating or clumsy, or I dislike the characters. Otherwise, I try to read to at least a third.

Just last night I quit reading a book by a NYT bestseller who had a cleanly stripped skeleton (not wired) discovered STANDING UP behind a wall! The investigators even lifted it out of the wall cavity by cupping their hands below the elbows, one on each side. I could not keep going after that. I spent too many years dealing with skeletons myself.

shubham sapkal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
shubham sapkal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

candy - bottom line if i lose interest in something - it goes or i go. i walk out of plays, movies, parties, etc. so it goes without saying that if i'm reading a book and its not grabbing me I stop. i usually go to at least 100 pages depending on the books actually length. but my TBR pile is like everyone's -- too long and not enough time. there is always something else i can be doing - like reading a book i'm enjoying! best, ali

paz said...

Just read your comment about the the skeleton in the NYTimes bestseller's closet (couldn't help myself LOL)...
Boggles the mind how people can be so scientifically illiterate, not so say lacking in all common sense. And points to the perils of not having editors to help the authors out of those embarrassing moments.

paz said...

I meant "not to say"... needing an editor of my own jaja

Susan J. said...

I know what you mean about modern writers not giving the book time to develop. The thing I hate most about some modern historical novelists is the awful dialogue. I know the dialogue can never be completely authentic but do they have to use expressions that have only been in use since about 1980?

cs harris said...

Ali, I've never walked out of a cinema, but I turn off movies at home all the time. That's one reason I rarely go to the cinema these days; I hate wasting my money like that.

Paz, I had the impression she envisioned the story that way and even after she did enough research to realize how impossible it was, she refused to give up the idea or alter it in any way. I'll never pick up another one of her books.

Susan, I know some historicals set in the Classical period do that, on the basis that we're not speaking Greek or Roman any more, but I agree it's still jarring.

Lynne said...

Susan - you nailed one of my pet peeves - dialogue that sounds like it's out of this century. Yikes! No author has to be absolutely period-perfect but it's so nice when the characters sound like they're talking in the same period in which the story is set. I like Candy's word - jarring!

Susan J. said...

Candy and Lynne: Yes, 'jarring' just about sums it up. It seems to be a balance between making the dialogue flow easily, without being stilted but at the same time not overly anachronistic. Very difficult to achieve I would imagine but Candy, you seem to strike the right balance in your books. Georgette Heyer was the master of course. Imogen Robertson's 18th century Gabriel Crowther novels are also good on that score. Jude Morgan's are excellent also. Of the modern Regency romance writers Mary Balogh is pretty good with her dialogue, nothing too 'jarring' anyway! Although they're pure escapism, I do love her books, particularly the 'Survivors' series about men damaged by fighting in the Peninsular wars.

Liz said...

Absolutely. Life is too short, not to, and I read for pleasure, not out of duty. BTW, I do the same in my life as a professional handknit wear designer. When I try out other designer's patterns, if I'm not enjoying the knitting, I abandon the project. The only difference between reading and knitting is that in the case of the latter, you can rip everything out and re-use the materials!

cs harris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cs harris said...

Lynne, it also irritates me when characters behave in ways that are totally off for their time period and everyone around them simply smiles indulgently.

Susan, it is so hard to hit the right balance. Haven't tried Robertson or Morgan.

Liz, I think you nailed it; when I was a teenager much of my reading was done like a duty, since I was determinedly plowing my way through a list of "100 books every educated person should have read." Now I see those lists and think, Yeah, I've read 80% and I'll never get those precious hours back.

Susan J. said...

You should try Jude Morgan's wonderful novel,'Passion'. It is about the women behind the Romantic poets, Augusta Leigh, Mary Shelley, Fanny Brawne and Caroline Lamb. A truly 'epic feat both of imagination and research' as Marie Claire magazine described it. Imogen Robertson's books are about an 18th century aristocratic anatomist, Gabriel Crowther and his friend Harriet Westerman and their search for justice and truth. The first one is called 'Instruments of Darkness'.

Gopal Dalal said...

Terminator Genisys live streaming
Terminator Genisys Full Movie Download in 3gp mp4 format
Terminator Genisys Full Movie Download in 320 kbps
Terminator 5 Full Movie Download
bajrangi bhaijaan official hd trailer
bajrangi bhaijaan trailer watch online
bajrangi bhaijaan trailer hd watch online
bajrangi bhaijaan movie
bajrangi bhaijaan trailer on youtube

ekhtsasy said...

شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض
شركة نقل عفش بالرياض
شركة تخزين اثاث بالرياض
شركة تخزين عفش بالرياض

شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
كشف تسربات المياه
شركة كشف تسربات بالرياض
شركة تنظيف بالرياض
شركة تنظيف منازل بالرياض
ِشركة تنظيف شقق بالرياض
ِشركة تنظيف خزانات بالرياض
ِشركة تنظيف مسابح بالرياض
ِشركة تنظيف كنب بالرياض
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض
شركة مكافحة الصراصير بالرياض
شركة مكافحة الفئران بالرياض
شركة مكافحة البق بالرياض
شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض
شركة نقل عفش بالرياض
شركة نقل عفش بالرياض رخيصة
شركة تنظيف كنب بالدمام
شركة تنظيف كنب بالخبر

Arushi Mathur said...

abcd 2 movie download

Download ABCD 2 Movie torrent

Download Jupiter ascending torrent

Jurassic World cast and Crew

saurabh tuteja said...

independence day prayers
independence day flowers
independence day invitation
why is independence day celebrated
Greece independence day
independence day facts for kids
independence day speech in hindi by modi

shooting games said...

Thank you for another wonferdul article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such an ideal way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.
cool math games| coolmathgames| cool math| math games| cool math a-z| coolmath games
b cubed| b-cubed| barbie games| friv 4 school| friv4school

Brothers Movie Torrent said...

Download Brothers hd torrent

Download Brothers Movie kickass torrent

Brothers Movie torrent Download

Download Jupiter ascending torrent

Download Jupiter ascending kickass torrent

Download Jurassic World Movie kickass Torrent

Download Jurassic World Movie Torrent

boxing day 2015 said...

what is boxing day
why do we have boxing day
2015 Boxing day sales sale deals flyers
who are the bigg boss participants
bigg boss live season 9 feed 2015
big boss 9 live updates and feeds
name of bigg boss 9 host

halloween pictures said...

Happy Halloween 2015 Images Pictures HD Wallpapers Photos
Happy Halloween 2015 Images
Happy Halloween 2015 Pictures
Happy Halloween 2015 Wallpaper
Happy Halloween 2015 Photos
Halloween 2015 Party Ideas
Happy Halloween 2015


Happy Halloween 2015 Quotes
Happy Halloween 2015 Messages
Happy Halloween Images Free Download
Funny Halloween Images Pictures
Halloween Images Pictures For Whatsapp Dp
Funny Halloween Images Quotes
Happy Halloween Day 2015

halloween pictures said...

Happy Halloween 2015 Images Pictures HD Wallpapers Photos
Happy Halloween 2015 Images
Happy Halloween 2015 Pictures
Happy Halloween 2015 Wallpaper
Happy Halloween 2015 Photos
Halloween 2015 Party Ideas
Happy Halloween 2015


Happy Halloween 2015 Quotes
Happy Halloween 2015 Messages
Happy Halloween Images Free Download
Funny Halloween Images Pictures
Halloween Images Pictures For Whatsapp Dp
Funny Halloween Images Quotes
Happy Halloween Day 2015

thị hậu nguyễn said...

Good information here. I really enjoy reading them every day. I've learned a lot from them .Thanks so much for sharing this information. Greatly help me being a newbie.
happy wheels
super mario bros
pacman
agario

حسام داود said...

Cleaning services company in Riyadh of Staff of the best companies in Riyadh cleaning workers technical coach at the highest levelشركة تسليك مجارى بالرياض
شركة تنظيف فلل بالرياض
شركة تنظيف خزنات بالرياضCleaning services company in Riyadh of Staff of the best companies in Riyadh cleaning workers technical coach at the highest level
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض
شركة تخزين اثاث بالرياض
شركة رش مبيدات بالرياض
شركة نظافه بالرياض
شركة تنظيف منازل بالرياض

Harish Sangwan said...

valentine wishes
valentine message for husband
valentine message for wife
valentine message for boyfriend
valentine message for girlfriend
valentine quotes for facebook
valentine day quotes
valentine quotes for husband
valentine quotes for wife
valentine quote for whatsapp
valentine quote for boyfriend

مؤسسه الحرمين said...



شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة عزل اسطح بالرياض
شركة عزل خزانات المياه بالرياض
شركه عزل مائى بالرياض
شركة عزل حرارى بالرياض
شركة ترميم منازل بالرياض
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض
شركة رش مبيدات بالرياض
شركة تسليك مجارى بالرياض

شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالاحساء
كشف تسربات المياه بالاحساء
شركة عزل اسطح بالاحساء
شركة عزل خزانات المياه بالاحساء
شركه عزل مائى بالاحساء
شركة عزل حرارى بالاحساء
شركة ترميم منازل بالاحساء
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالاحساء
شركة رش مبيدات بالاحساء
شركة تسليك مجارى بالاحساء
شركة ترميم منازل بالاحساء

سيو said...

تعد شركة سوقني من الشركات الكبري المتخصصة فى الكثير من اعمال تصميم مواقع واشهار اى موقع فى جوجل باستخدام طرق واساليب حديثة

سيو said...

احصل معنا على الكثير من خدمات الرائعة فى شركة تنظيف منازل بمكة حيث يوجد الكثير من خدمات واعمال التنظيف ومكافحة الحشرات بمكة

سيو said...

خصومات كبيرة جدا واعمال مميزة تجدوها الان على موقعنا موقع الاخلاص والامانة لخدمات نقل عفش مكة اعمال مميزة جدا وخصومات رائعة نقدمها اليكم من على موقعنا

سيو said...

يعتبر موقعنا واحد من المواقع المتخصصة فى اعمال الصيانات لدينا اعمال رائعة جدا فى صيانة فريجيدير حيث يوجد الكثير من خدمات الرائعة صيانة توشيبا فى اعمال الصيانات المميزة

سيو said...

يعتبر موقعما واحد من افضل المواقع المتخصصة فى اعمال تجهيزات مطاعم اعمال رائعة وخصومات كبيرة جدا نقدمها اليكم الان من على موقعنا

شركة سوسو said...

تعتمد شركتنا على أهم وأضخم المستودعات المؤمنة والمجهزة على أعلى مستوى والتى تتسع لتخزين جميع أنواع الاثاث , فنحن لدينا العديد من الغرف الخاصة شركة نقل اثاث بجدة بكل عميل يتم تنظيفها بشكل مستمر من أجل الحفاظ شركة نقل عفش بجدة على الاثاث من كافه الاتربة أو من الحشرات التى سرعان ما تقوم بتأكل الاثاث.

ngocanh said...

Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definately interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.
outlook iniciar sesión l iniciar sesión outlook l outlook l iniciar sesión

ngocanh said...

Your blog posts are more interesting and impressive. I think there are many people like and visit it regularly, including me.I actually appreciate your own position and I will be sure to come back here.
facebook entrar l entrar facebook l entrar no facebook l entrar facebook direto l entrar facebook agora

Muhammad Adeel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.