I could never be a speed reader, although I’d love to have that ability. When I read, I have a mental voice. In my mind’s ear, I can hear the words being spoken. That’s a major mental block to speed reading. However, it gives me a powerful tool.
When I read, I’m in tune to the beat and rhythm of the English language. Yes, every language has one. Maybe that’s why I can speak Spanish and French and fool a native for a few minutes. It’s the beat, rhythm, and voice inflections, that make English so powerful (Yes, I’m perfectly aware of Chinese having those qualities as well). In English, you not only have the stressed syllable in a word, but sometimes there are also a second stressed and a half-stressed syllables as well.
Photo: Ky Olsen used under creative commons license.
Of course there are numerous books out there concerning self-editing that would make a writer start cutting away. Yes, you should have those guides; I also have some on my desk. However, be careful. You could be destroying a beautiful melody for the sake of mechanics.
There’s a member of my critique group who has a magnificent and beautiful prose style. It’s a treat to hear her work read out loud. The flow reminds me of gentle ocean waves kissing the shoreline. I can see an editor shredding her work for the sake of word count. After all, I’ve read that it’s a rule of thumb to cut out twenty percent of an Author’s draft. I know there’s a certain wisdom in that attitude. After all, not all authors can do what she can do. However, the thought of her prose getting wrecked for mechanical sake makes me cringe.
Also, in my critique group, the presenting author usually chooses another member to read it out loud to the group. I can’t stress the need and practicality of this practice enough. You’ll get to hear how a reader approaches your work. If you don’t have anyone available, convert it to a PDF format and let adobe read it for you. You will not get the benefit of spotting where a reader stumbles over an awkwardly constructed sentence, but at least you’ll get to hear the beat and rhythm of your prose and the quality of your dialog.