There is a new smart phone application that has the techies of the world wetting themselves in excitement. It’s called Spritz, a program that streams words at speeds up to 1,000 words per minute. The creators are utilizing something called the “Optimal Recognition Point,” the exact moment when the brain recognizes a single word. The app flashes text at you one word at a time, and the center of the word is colored red to help the mind focus at that point. Theoretically, a person who trains their reading speed using Spritz can in time read an entire novel in just a couple of hours. Evidently the average person reads around 220 words per minute. They must not have timed someone trying to read while their spouse is watching a TV show with the volume cranked to ear bleed levels, and their child in the next room (door open, of course) playing Modern Warfare online with a whole platoon of friends with the speakers wide open. I’m lucky to get 5 words a minute (8 words a minute during commercials – unless it’s for food, which brings all reading to a stop).
I went to their website and tried it. By golly, it worked! I sat right here in my computer chair and read for fifteen minutes as they increased the speed. By the time I was finished , I not only was reading at 1,000 wpm, I wet myself three times and didn’t know it. The only problem I had with the program was that I had no freaking idea what it was I read. That in itself is no big deal. I mean, as a writer I’m always being plied with offers from new authors wanting me to check out their novels, and I’m always happy to do so. Most of the novels I read are excellent all the way around, and I have no qualms about giving a glowing review. Sometimes, though, a novice writer cranks out something that reads like a psychopathic thesaurus has gone on an English language killing spree. Over the years I’ve read so many of these ‘experiments in literature’ (I’m being nice, ok?) that I’ve started thinking of taking their words apart and selling them back to the dictionary people. Of course, I’m much too nice a guy to tell another writer that their work makes me air my reading room out, so that officially makes me a terrible critic. I’ll respond to a writer’s query that they have ‘unique and challenging character development’ when in reality I never could determine who the protagonist was. When I say their novel has ‘unexpected plot twists,’ that means I expected there to be plot twists, but the story was so predictable it was like guessing what a baby would do when pinched. When I say I enjoyed their use of dialogue, that means everything else should be shoveled out. Now, I want to say something to all the authors who have asked me to review their books. I’m not talking about you. Trust me. Your book was incredible and inventive. Seriously.
Look, I’m the last person in the world to be all holier-than-thou in the realm of writing. There are some writers who are so awesome they make me want to break my keyboard over my knee and swear to never write another word out of respect and humility. There is a brigade of incredible young talent out there just waiting to take your imagination on a journey you’ll always cherish (I was going to say ‘a journey you’ll never forget,’ but that can cut both ways). You may have to wade through a haystack full of blunt straws in order to find that one sharp piece of writing, but thank goodness for Spritz. Now you can find out in record time if a certain book is worth your time.
Just do me a favor, though, ok? Don’t tell me my work has unexpected plot twists, ok. Let me know up front if my book sucks. I’ll respect you more for it. Actually, I’ll suggest you read the same book backwards using Spritz, just so you can get my words out of your system quicker. Who know? It might make more sense that way.