How Do I Tell Thee?

Recently, I purchased a book I’d been looking at for a while by an author who’s new to me. It starts out great, full of great world-building, characters, and action, then four pages in—bam. I’m jarred out of a promising new fantasy world by a significant grammatical error. A slap-you-right-out-of-the-book error. I start to get that awful feeling… Has he let me down (yes, I take it personally), or is this just a fluke? Should I go on? Look at how many books he has out. This has to be a one-off. I decide to give him another chance, settle back, and read on. Soon, I begin to notice a few more errors, here and there–a missing comma, oh, there it is. It doesn’t belong there. Then–another biggie! My bubble bursts! I know I’m not going to enjoy this book because I’m genuinely vexed. So, I start doing that terrible thing we obsessed readers can’t help but do—I look for mistakes, rather than enjoy the story. NOTE: Also, it’s because I’m an old-fashioned fusspot. I’m sorry, but I just can’t help it!

After a while (and a couple more small mistakes), I find a lulu—one phrase within a long sentence is repeated at the end. I figuratively toss the book to one side and go to the reviews. All concentrate on the story, quite a few 5 stars, with good supporting comments, leading me to believe they read the book. That surprises me a little bit—no one mentions the errors. Maybe that’s how we do things now… NO! I can’t— I refuse to believe that! However, this piques my curiosity. I ask about it in a few book-related chatrooms. I learn that people seldom chastise writers for errors in reviews, but one reason is mentioned that surprises me—they figure errors shouldn’t be there in the first place, so the writer doesn’t care. That’s harsh!

I’ve chatted with this guy a few times, and he’s a nice, upbeat person. I wonder–Does he have any idea about the errors? Or do people really care more about the story than a few errors here and there in today’s world? This wouldn’t be the first time I pondered over that incredulous possibility. A few years ago, I alpha read a book for someone I scarcely knew and found quite a few mistakes. When I told the writer she needed a better editor (and copy/pasted a few examples), I received that famous quote in reply— “Those don’t really matter,” she scoffed. “People care more about the story.” When stupid me offered to correct her errors for free, she declined, saying, “Most people just skim over them.” Well, I’m no skimmer, and that was the end of that!

I’m not an English major, but I really try hard to make sure I catch the biggies. I’d hate to have this happen to any of my readers! I’ve even started placing a page at the end of my books called, FOUND A TYPO? NOOOO…. It tells you what to do if you find one. I’ve never gotten anything… Gasp! Maybe only skimmers are reading my work. I’m disappointed!

I have a love affair with words. I love writing. I used to write plans and procedures for the government and loved it! Yes, people thought I was crazy. But if you’re going to be a writer, do your best. In fact, whatever your career choice, learn your job and always do it the best you can. If you don’t, then you don’t respect your craft!

Just to show you that I’m not above all this: I recently downloaded my third book, “Dragon’s Revenge” to look at how something looked on the Kindle page. Being idle, I began reading it. A few chapters later—Noooo! I found an error (surely you saw that coming)! Suddenly, I was on the other side of the page. I was the writer with mistakes! But I have only great reviews with content that shows they read the book! Gasp! What a quandary! Was I skimmed, or didn’t the readers care? Wow, talk about having the rug pulled out from under one! Still, no sympathy from this indie author. I pulled the book. I can’t stand it! I’m embarrassed! So now I have to fix them. A writer’s work is never done. Grumble. Guess I should have been a bit quicker at getting the “Found a Typo” link in this book!

OK, the lecture is finished. Glad I got it off my chest. This whole experience has been a revelation for me. Perhaps readers do skim over errors nowadays. Or perhaps, in the case of a good tale, it doesn’t matter very much. I admit I’ll read on if I see a little typo here and there if I’m loving the story. As an indie writer whose budget doesn’t allow for a professional editor, I believe a few minor mistakes should be excused. But I promise you writers out there who think significant errors don’t matter, you will be noticed and there’s an incredibly good chance your book won’t be finished or reviewed. And your book sales might also start to be skimmed. NOTE: That doesn’t look as clever as it sounded in my head. Oh well, you know what I mean.

2 responses to “How Do I Tell Thee?”

  1. Hi Hanne,

    Thanks for that; at least I’m not alone. I didn’t even talk about all the anachronistic mistakes I see! Unfortunately, though I’m sure it’s not intended, some are actually funny. I don’t think I’d be kind while telling people about errors. I mean, I’d try, but I’m just not very good at that.

  2. I believe that it matters to make sure a book is free of mistakes.
    I don’t always put my observations in reviews; it depends on the number of mistakes, and if they’re obvious typos. Something that annoys me no end in historical fiction is if the clothing is wrong for the period — and that happens surprisingly often. Also, if the author hasn’t put enough thought into the chosen music, eg putting a hundred man orchestra into a tent, bring me up in arms. These are just a few samples.
    If a book is fraught with mistakes, I mention it but try to be kind about it.

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