When Writing Ruins Reading by Sarah Ballance

Read to the end of post for contest information.

When Writing Ruins Reading / Sarah Ballance

I used to enjoy reading.  I mean, REALLY enjoy it.  I could sit back with a good book – heck, even a mediocre one – and kill a whole afternoon in utter bliss.  With a book in hand, life was a lemonade commercial in the heat of summer, all sunshine and fresh breezes and bare feet  beneath a deep blue sky.

Then I became a writer.

The transition was a slow one.  In the beginning I experienced some raw sort of kinship with the authors whose books I read, as if they had any inkling or cared that I yearned to join their ranks.   Then – because I had to do this writing thing right – I dug into the so-called rules of writing and editing, and a few of those phantom relationships tanked.  I noticed things like mid-paragraph point-of-view switches.  Repeated words.  Grammatical errors.  Oh, my.  But I’ve talked with other authors who notice the same things.  Truth be told, it’s hard NOT to notice the stuff our critique partners and editors have beaten us over the head with.
You’d think there’d be an upside to this.  You would think this little genetic deformity of mine would mean I catch all of my own mistakes, but oh, no.  I can hear my crit partner laughing from halfway across the country because I am practically immune to seeing the mistakes in my own work.   And you know what?  I bet most of us won’t catch them all.  You read the same manuscript enough and all the words have been written 100 times a piece.  Who’s going to notice misplaced, misused number 101?  

The occasional typo happens no matter how many times you proofread, and that applies not only to authors but editors.  Most readers can forgive such a thing – yes, even me – but when I see a mid-scene or (*gasp*) mid-paragraph point-of-view switch you have to pry me off the ceiling with a crow bar.  I have literally woken my poor hubby up in the middle of the night to read him a paragraph out of novel he (a) has no interest in and (b) couldn’t follow if he did because he’s only pretending to be awake.  Yeah, that’s what separates me from the normal folks.  I not only see these things, but I need a witness!

Sometimes I look back fondly on the good old days, back when I didn’t know only one character could speak in a paragraph and a pronoun referred to the last specific noun mentioned.  (I’m afraid I’ve always been a card carrying member of the grammar police – if there were days of nostalgia there, they were before fourth grade or so, LOL).  But for the most part I consider this little neurotic part of my soul to be a good thing.  Finding errors in a professionally edited, professionally published piece is a fantastic way to hone writing skills.  And let’s face it, if you sit up straight from a sleepy state at three in the morning because you notice a no-no, you tend to give it a wide berth when you’re fine-tuning your own manuscript.

Now, some of you are like me and I know what you’re doing.  You’re looking with beady eyes over every word I’ve written.  You’re finding errors, spotting broken rules, and pointing fingers because I’ve ended sentences with prepositions.  And, hey, if you’re really diligent, you’ll buy a copy of Down in Flames and comb through every word.  (Ahem.)  But the more you pick on me the more I adore you, because if there’s a like-minded soul out there poking an unfriendly elbow into a sleeping spouse to point out my gaffes, well, let’s just say I dig your style.  And my condolences to your bedmate.

What about you?  Do you notice the typos, broken rules, and grammatical errors when you’re reading for pleasure?  Share your thoughts,  tell me I’m nuts, or just say hello – just show me SOME kind of love!  One lucky commenter will win a $10 e-gift card to Amazon.com (why, yes, you CAN grab a copy of Down in Flames on Amazon, thank you very much!)  You must have a valid e-mail address to enter- Make sure you have that in your comment or we can not contact you if you won.  A winner will be chosen Monday September 27th, 2010


Web:  http://sarahballance.com/
Blog:  http://sarahballance.wordpress.com/
Buy link:  https://www.nobleromance.com/ItemDisplay.aspx?i=136

When Jack Gellar returns to Jefferson Heights after five long years and an unforgettable betrayal, is his appearance the last thing Molly Coleman needs in her tragedy-stricken life . . . or the first?

Molly just lost her entire family, and now her home and business are both on the line.  An unexpected encounter with the one man who can put the pieces back together leaves her reeling, for he can just as easily destroy what little she has left.  Jack has a lot to prove to win her back, but when a lapse in judgment turns into an ultimatum he can’t refuse, will his choice bring them together or tear them apart for good?


Anonymous said…
Welcome Sarah to my blog. I loved your post. I am the same way. I review and find editorial issues and when I go to read for pleasure, I am looking for the same thing. *grins*

C. Zampa said…
Oh, it's a curse, I tell you---the reading AFTER you've become a writer!

I do the same thing. I truly do. I'm on auto-edit as I read, not able to miss mistakes.

But, the DOWN side, the more discouraging side of reading when you are a writer? Getting into a really well written book, seeing how flawless it is, and then looking at your own work and....heaving that big sigh. Wondering why can't my own writing be this pristine?

Enjoyed the blog!

Sloane Taylor said…
Sarah, you are spot on. Being a writer has made it harder to pleasure read for the same reasons you've noted. Unfortunately, it hasn't stopped me from making mistakes my CPs love to point out.:)

I also enjoy your wit. It made it much easier to accept my own faults. Although it made it harder to type a response here. lol

Congratulations on Down In Flames. I'm off to buy it and am positive there are no grammatical errors from a card carrying member of the grammar police!
Kari Gregg said…
Misusing "loose" and "lose". Drives me up the WALL. ;-)
iamhouseholdsix said…
Can I get a witnessssssss?!?!?!?!?

Amen, sistah!

Let the grammar police reign down on us. Loved this blog, and your quip.

And now I know not to get on your bad side. You'll tear me to shreds! ha ha ha ha
Sarah Ballance said…
Thanks for having me, Dawn. I'm having a blast in your little corner of the web - it's comfy here! =c)
Sarah Ballance said…
Yes, C Zampa, there's definitely THAT flipside, LOL. Thanks for stopping by!
Sarah Ballance said…
Oh, Sloane, you flatterer you! Now I'm gonna look you up because you made me blush. Thanks for stopping by (and saying I have wit)! =cP
Sarah Ballance said…
Oh, Kari, we need a support group! LOL. (Me, too, BTW!) Thanks for visiting!
Sarah Ballance said…
I'm sharpening my claws, IAHH6! But all the better for it, right? *wink*
Shiela Stewart said…
Whew! I thought I was the only one. Nice to know I'm not alone. LOL

Great post Sarah!!
Anonymous said…
Good post, very interesting!!!

I am an English teacher and tend to easily see those eroors too...but it doesn't spoil my reading pleasure. Unless it's really too often.

Anne Kane said…
I know exactly how you feel! I was horrified to found out that my favorite changes POV all the time.

Luckily,it doesn't bother me enough to make me quit reading. Still I often get the urge to send a copy of her books to my editor. Just for fun!

Anne Kane
A.B.Gayle said…
Hi Sarah
Great blog. You are spot on about the critical reading part but also about the weird way it is hard to pick it up in your own work.
I hate head hopping even if not mid paragraph. My immediate reaction is "Who cares what the cleaning lady thinks?"
The thing it does do is make you appreciate well crafted books that much more.
Kari Gregg said...
Misusing "loose" and "lose". Drives me up the WALL. ;-)

Ditto "chose" and "choose"
BTW Sarah, I didn't see any mistakes in the blog post. *grins*
Hey, Sarah!

I enjoyed reading your blog post and I agree, it's hard not to notice those grammatical boo boos.

It used to surprise me when I would find them in major NY releases. One or two are forgivable, we are after all only human. :)

When there are too many, I'm afraid it ruins the reading experience for me. I find myself giving more attention to the next typo or grammar gaffe than the actual story.

*Any grammatical boo boos found within this post are 100% computer error!*
LOVE PiNKkK xo said…
Hi Sarah! I think you're absolutely amazing. You're book seems like it will be terrific & I cannot wait to read it.

Fiona said…
I have been reading since before kindergarten, and getting an English major was the obvious way to go. That being said, I have always found typos and grammatical errors in newspapers, published books, and magazines. All of these places should be error-free, in my mind! But alas, they are not. I find I have to print out my manuscripts on paper in order to catch errors that my eye doesn't see on the screen.
The Mama Beth said…
Yes! Recently I've caught two books by the same author using the WRONG character's name in a description. How does someone miss that?
LizardQOE said…
I completely understand! I, too, am an avid reader and love writing! I actually love language so much that I majored in English. I was one of those students that would point out typos in the novels we read. :P

My ultimate dream is to write a novel. I'm just not really sure where to begin. That's awesome that you've decided to jump out into the world of authors! Good luck!

I don't notice anything but maybe that is because I was bad in English. It have to be very noticeable for me to see it.


stevie-carroll said…
I've always been a picky reader, but it's getting worse the more I write.
SiNn said…
honetsly i notice tid bits people miss but usually i over look alot

Sarah Ballance said…
Welcome to the club, Shiela! And thanks for stopping by. ;c)
Sarah Ballance said…
Hi, Valerie! An English teacher of the texting generation? OMG - you must have patience and nerves of steel! I cringe every time I get an email from anyone under 20, LOL. Thanks for stopping by!
Sarah Ballance said…
Anne, what a discovery! But don't you love - or not - the ones who seem to get away with it? ;c) Thanks for your comment!
Sarah Ballance said…
Thanks, A.B.! And LOL - I'm glad I "passed!" It's nice to know I'm not the only one who goes nuts over things I end up doing myself. *grin*
Sarah Ballance said…
Hi, Nichelle! I totally agree. And I refuse to admit how many times I've counted pages between the big errors. Wrong name on a character? Yeah, I noticed! LOL. Did they REALLY make the same mistake ten pages later? Yikes! (So far I have NOT compiled a spreadsheet, so maybe there's hope for me yet!)
Sarah Ballance said…
Amy/love, YOU are amazing! Thanks so much for your support, and I hope you enjoy Jack's antics. ;c)
Sarah Ballance said…
Fiona, that's a good point. Two of them, actually. I can not STAND to see errors in text books! I know it happens, but it makes me crazy! I home school and we even see errors on standardized testing. UGH! And about printing the pages out, that is an excellent idea! I've found changing the font and size helps me notice errors on the screen. I guess it's a way to force "fresh eyes," LOL!
Sarah Ballance said…
Mama Beth, isn't that bewildering? It's amazing what can get past not just one but MANY sets of eyes! Thanks for coming by! =c)
Sarah Ballance said…
Elizabeth/lizard - Girl, you cozy up to that keyboard and WRITE! It's like free therapy. (I have six kids and we homeschool so they never go away ... trust me, FREE THERAPY! LOL!) Thanks for commenting, and chase that dream!
Sarah Ballance said…
Loretta, ENJOY IT! I'd love to be able to relax into a good novel without my radar kicking in. =c) Thanks for commenting!
Sarah Ballance said…
Stevie-Carroll, alas, it is a progressive disease, isn't it? LOL. Thanks so much for stopping by!
Sarah Ballance said…
SiNn, I bet you enjoy reading a lot more because you don't notice many of the issues. I'm a tiny bit envious! =cP Thanks so much for coming by to comment!
Oh, I do this too. Some errors leap off the page at me and I'm sure I've become more picky since I was published.

And I can't resist looking over manuscripts I've checked eleventy billion times, AFTER I've emailed them to my editor...

...and there's always at least one glaring typo I can't work out how I missed.
Sarah Ballance said…
Scarlett, that's another great point! I almost can't stand to look at anything after I've subbed it - query, partial, full, or pubbed - because heaven help me if I find an error, LOL. Looks like we're on opposite sides of that particular fence, but very much on the same page! =c)
Tonya Callihan said…
I have to agree. I hate when I'm reading a really great book and then a grammar error hits me in the middle of the forehead. What's worse is when it happens more than once in the same book. It really draws me out of the story. I try not to think about that when I start to read, but then sometimes it's hard to miss them!

tonyacallihan AT hotmail DOT com

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