This month’s question comes from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group … and it’s one I get a lot when I do panels as well.
I have a few, to be honest, but I’ll narrow it down to two.
The first one is homophones and malapropisms. These drive me crazy. Anything from not knowing whether to use their, they’re, or there to the difference between broach (approaching something) and brooch (a piece of jewelry), or knock (tapping on something) and nock (fitting an arrow to a bowstring), will get up my nose in a heartbeat. And yes, I have seen arrows being knocked and women wearing broaches — in published material, not just drafts. This is why spell-check is not the only editor any of us need.
Maybe it’s because of my days as a newspaper editor, but these simple mistakes leap off the page at me and take me straight out of a story. It tells me that the author didn’t know better … and that they didn’t even bother to get a proofreader to look at the story, let alone an editor.
The second is egregious errors in fact. There is a difference between taking creative license and flat-out getting it wrong. People who read a lot of historical fiction tend to read a lot of non-fiction about the eras in which they are interested, and if you get it wrong? They’ll know. Heaven knows I do. Like homophone errors, this is a sure way to pull me right out of a story.
Our goal as authors is to keep our readers in the story, not make them stop in their tracks and wonder what the hell we were thinking. So, let us be vigilant.