As a reader, as well as nit-picky editor, I get very discouraged when I find major errors in a finished work that might have otherwise been a fabulous read, if only it hadn’t made me stop and think about what should have been written there instead. I always have to wonder what the editor or proofreader was doing while giving the work its final read. Did they just run it through spell check or grammar check and hope that all the boo boos were caught?
Continuity errors can consist of such things as wrong dates, number of items used by a character repeatedly throughout the story, the color of hair or eyes, or nicknames for characters. As the creator of a world, action, or character, you don’t want your readers stopping midst the action of the story to wonder if they imagined the number of husbands someone had or the color of the hero’s hair or eyes as wrong. I see this happen far too often. It can happen to any of us. Most likely it happens because as the author was writing she/he decided to make a change but didn’t catch all of the places in the work that needed replacing. Frankly, it’s an easy switch out to make if your program has a find and replace feature. But then again, an objective second set of eyes will inevitably help.
A missed word here or there can happen to the best of us. Our brains tend to move faster than our fingers on a keyboard and if an author is writing longhand, it’s guaranteed that a word or two will get dropped as the story unfolds. When an author reads over what’s been written, she/he is too close to the story to always catch these holes in the prose. Our brains will fill in the blanks without us realizing anything is awry. A good editor should always find these holes that can cause a reader to trip through the words.
But THE worst error in my book of things that can wrong:
Yes, the wrong name being used at the wrong moment can send a reader into a tailspin causing them to read and reread a line, a paragraph, or even go back pages to reread thinking they’ve missed something. I know, as a reader, I’ve done it. I’ve even read books where a character’s name from a completely different work showed up in place of a character in the current one. Very disconcerting, distracting, and frankly, it can take a lot away from the scene and the overall impact the book has as a whole.
My point is that nothing beats a second or third pair of eyes to ensure that everything in a book is copacetic and exact in order to tell the author’s story in its best light. No program, no spell check, or grammar check can spot all of the missing words, no proofreading program that simply looks for misspellings can catch a he where it should be a she or a wrong name, wrong color of eyes, or a missing word that might change the entire aspect of a scene. The only way to catch these errors is with the reader’s eye.
When I read a book, I want to enjoy it. I read many ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) and so expect to find errors – after all, it’s not always complete – and so I allow my brain to fill in the holes where words should be and hope that someone somewhere has caught the error before it goes to print. But at the same time, I always worry about those wrong names, wrong hair color, and other things that skew the story. I worry that they weren’t caught and are going to worm their way into the final publication and so, yet another potentially great read goes down with a less than stellar effect on the reader. This is why I created Romancing Editorially, to help those authors whose works need that nit-picky, detail-oriented, pain-in-the-ass person to look at every aspect of their manuscript and hopefully catch those nasty errors so they don’t ruin a great read.
So what errors in novels drive you nuts and keep you from just relaxing into the story?