The next time you find yourself not reading every word, take advantage of the opportunity. Try to figure what went wrong – why this passage doesn't hold your attention:
● The author stepped away from dramatization and dumped a long passage of summary or backstory.
● She let a character deliver a speech.
● He wants to explain something in numbing detail.
● She spent too many pages exploring a subplot instead of advancing the story.
Whatever the problems, store them in a self-editor's checklist, and use that list to examine the nearly complete pages of your work in progress.
If you're fortunate, you'll find pages to revise. But don't trust yourself. You have blind spots – especially about your own work.
That's where beta readers come in. Or they should.
I doubt the author of the nonfiction manuscript I recently edited used beta readers. Or heeded their advice. Most of Chapter 2 expounded basic information his target readers should already know. It interrupted the flow between Chapters 1 and 3, and he'd done nothing to set it in context.
He was impassioned about the information, and the entire chapter sat squarely in his blind spot. After a paragraph or two, readers will skim. If the author is fortunate, they'll peek ahead to Chapter 3 – and check back in.
If you've secured an agent and anticipate traditional publishing, you're working with a safety net that independent authors may bypass. But you're working with gatekeepers who set the bar high.
They'll expect you're aware of your biggest blind spots—and have taken steps to address them.
There's no point in writing words your audience will want to skim.