As a reader of more than my fair share of self-published novels, I have come across a common trend that for the most part I can let pass: grammatical errors. That's not to say I'm okay if a book is riddled with issues, but the occasional hiccup doesn't faze me. Mistakes happen. And that is also not to say that it's only self-published novels that are full of errors. I've read more than a few from publishing houses that have goofs that range from small to glaring oversights.
I have a very good friend who is a romance junkie like me, but she is also a copyeditor. We've had many discussions on this issue. How does one go about reacting to the big goofs, though? And what do you consider a small transgression, as opposed to outwardly flinching—or just putting the book down?
Everyone's tolerance level is different. My encounters with various errors cause different reactions, depending on the book. When it comes to glaring errors, I do find myself more forgiving of a new or relatively unknown author who has self-published a novel over an established author with a publisher and a copyeditor. Small mistakes, like an extra “s” in a word, just make me shrug. The random apostrophe is a hiccup found frequently too. I blink and move on.
Take this example: A romance author I enjoy has had a few more errors in her recent books than her earlier novels. I'm not sure why; perhaps it's due to her being more prolific than in the past. It didn't really bother me, despite the spelling or grammar problems. At first. Then came the wall I hit when reading one of her novels. I put the book down for a while and backed away from the author in general. In a scene, she described someone as “deafly ill.” Ouch! I heard a record scratch sound in my head when I came across that error. Mistakes happen, but how did that one get by?
Another common issue I've come across is when names get screwed up. Sometimes it's a little thing, and other times, it's like, who is this character? I've read more than a handful of books where two characters are talking or a character is thinking about another character and the names get mixed up causing a sudden pause of “wait, what?” before going back and realizing what happened. One of my go-to erotica authors once mistakenly created an entirely new character at the end of the book when she took the first name of the male protagonist and the last name of another character, then combined the two. Took me a moment to figure out what happened, but I thought for a second that it was like an old school mystery with the introduction of a last minute character to the story to push a plot point. Ruh-roh! Then again, I actually did quit a novel by this same author where a character disappeared halfway through the novel with no explanation. Yes, it was the heroine's dog, but as there were several pages devoted to what the dog meant to her and the dog saved the heroine's life from an intruder, it bugged me to no end that when the heroine moved in with the hero, the dog was never mentioned again. Did she leave it at her old house to fend for itself? I don't think I'll ever know the answer to that question, but I did get my answer regarding what my breaking point was with that story.
Then there's the comma. Oh, how that does change things when it's not there versus when it is there. One of the errors related to this issue that I always recall is in a favorite book of mine where the author wrote: “He missed her period.” While for some male characters that would be cause for alarm in a story, in this case, it's not what the author meant at all. That missing comma changed his missing her as a person to his missing her menses. Oops! How many men think about missing menstruation when it comes to their woman? I've not read any male characters yet who feel strongly about that subject...and hope not to in the future. That was another error I wondered about getting by since it was a lone, standout sentence not included in a paragraph. Again, mistakes happen.
My question is this: How do others feel about errors in novels? What is your level of tolerance? Also, would you recommend a book that has errors you found yourself having a hard time overlooking if the story were intriguing? I have recommended novels with some errors to friends, but I haven't always pointed them out. I didn't want that to influence their decision to read the story or not since it would be missing something good for inconsequential things. Plus, who is to say that every reader pays as much attention or catches errors frequently or at all? What makes you flinch or put a book down and what simply makes you shrug, then move on to the next sentence?
Miss_D has been reading romance books for over 25 years. A native Californian making her way in the Big Apple, she likes to spend her downtime relaxing in front of the TV, chatting with friends, sitting in Central Park and playing beach volleyball. Miss D can be reached via Twitter @bonobochick.