I’m sitting here in front of my computer and trying to gather my thoughts so that today’s post doesn’t come off as a rant or a whinny bit of complaining. So bear with me as I debate whether the word I should use is bear or bare. And wonder overly long if I can I really begin a sentence with and or the occasional but.
Writing is hard. There are so many grammatical rules. Some of which are firm and unbreakable. Others feel more like guidelines because language and its usage is in a state of perpetual change. Lately, pronouns seem to me to be under attack. I often see one-word sentences and I no longer find page-length paragraphs in books or overly long Faulkner-like rambling prose. The preferred style of writing seems to be clipped, almost abrupt. Text-like.
As a lover of prose, I read with two minds. One as a writer… I would have said this if I had written it. I would have changed that. I can’t believe this got passed an editor. Is it past or passed? I know the author meant through but though is clearly on the page. This author loves commas. Or, where the hell are the commas!
But if the story is good and the characters are compelling, I read as an average reader might. Suddenly I don’t see the mistakes unless they’re glaring because their isn’t the same as they’re or there and it occurred in an important scene between the characters.
I usually don’t comment on errors in general when I write a book review for an author. I don’t because I know that the industry has changed. Many traditionally published books are full of errors. And no matter how they choose to publish, the authors are struggling with the same difficulties as I am. They’re human and have poured their imagination and heart into the writing of a book for the entire world to see and judge. And being so close to their own work, their mind simply can’t see the mistakes anymore.
Excellent writing doesn’t come naturally. It takes honing. It takes work and reworking. Writers agonize over word choice. Pacing. Sentence structure. Tense. Point of view. Should a story be told in first-person, second, or third. Only after the work has been edited and re-edited do writers begin to struggle with shaping their work into an accepted format for others to view. An editor has their preferred style of working through a manuscript. An agent or potential publisher will want to see the manuscript in a very specific format as well. And still later, the actual book’s format (ebook or print) will differ from both of these pre-published states. A lot can be overlooked during this process.
So when I begin reading a book and manage to get out of my writer-mind that knows too much into a reader-mind, I know it’s a good book.
I also feel a connection to an author who has published a book full of errors because I’ve already lived through that moment in my writing career. I have to admit the raking over the coals I received from a few less forgiving readers was absolutely brutal! I think at this point I’ve recovered, but the memory still stings.
Sometimes a book full of errors is because there was a rush to publish. Other times it’s because the editing, proofing, or formating was given over to an outside source that didn’t know what they were doing or didn’t care. Either way, it’s a painful learning lesson and my heart goes out to any other author who has or is dealing with such a thing.
It is hard enough creating the work, no matter the genre. That act of creating something from nothing takes courage. Even with the flaws, whether few or many, an author has given a piece of themselves to the world…to a reader. And that, my fellow book lovers, deserves to be celebrated and encouraged.
“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” (Confucius)