Read What You Write

I read mysteries for relaxation. Even though mysteries are generally written to formula, depending on whether it’s a cozy, police procedural, hard-boiled, or whatever, I still like to see if I can figure out whodunnit.

Last week I was reading a mystery about two elderly sisters found dead and on page 2, the author named one sister as the older, but on page 4, the other sister was older. HUH? I re-read and re-read because I couldn’t believe my eyes. Yep, there it was. A simple error that ruined the author’s credibility regarding details (which is rather important in a mystery).

So what’s my point? You are the author of your book and the responsibility for the words (including errors) is yours. Granted, you need an editor because you know what you intended to say and an editor will help you determine if the words actually do. However, your name–not the editor’s–appears on the cover of your book, so your reader holds you–not the editor–accountable for the book’s contents.

Writing books takes weeks, months, or even years. It’s easy to forget details you’ve written over time. But your reader reads your book in hours or days, so everything is fresh in your reader’s mind.

Many successful authors write to a schedule, and the first thing each one does is go back and read what he or she wrote the previous writing session in order to pick up in the right spot and have the right focus.

I’m an advocate of writers groups to help you with your writing too. Writers groups can point out inconsistencies such as the one I found in that mystery.

When we were publishing books, I required all manuscripts be edited by a book editor because a good book editor will challenge the author in areas that aren’t clear or that are inconsistent.

But the ultimate responsibility for the accuracy in your book is you, so read what you write.

Happy writing!


3 Responses to “Read What You Write”

  1. 1 Subhakar Das March 5, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Was it a self-published book? If a traditional publisher makes such a mistake, it is quite gross.

  2. 2 Sharron Stockhausen March 5, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Excellent question! NO! It was not self-published. In fact, it was published by a major publisher of mysteries. However, it was mass paperback, so it may have been published with a short deadline.

  3. 3 Cheryl Frost June 16, 2012 at 8:50 am

    I see more of these errors on trad pub books than indies. A big one I saw was in the last Harry Potter book. Early in the book Hermione makes a big fuss about how she erased her parents’ memories. Two chapters later she claims that she’s never done a memory spell. With as many editors as that book had and the ga-millions of fans, an error like that is inexcusable.

    I read cozy mysteries too, when I’m taking a break from YA fantasy and dystopia. Have you read the Lorna Barrett books or Cleo Coyle? I love books about books, or books about coffee, or chocolate. I never read a mystery in my life until about a year ago. I’ve caught up quite well since then.

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