Earlier this week, Janet Reid (@queryshark, @Janet_Reid) tweeted “Great query, great premise for a novel, good writing. 9 errors in 10 pages. Agent heartbreak. I basically wept in my reply letter.”
I know EXACTLY what she means. (Despite not being an important literary agent in NYC. A girl can dream. 😉 )
You don’t have to be an erstwhile copyeditor with a blue pencil fetish to understand Janet’s heartbreak. (Not that I am or anything.)
Errors, no matter how small or insignificant they seem, catapult the reader right out of your story. No one wants to find themselves flung out of Imaginative Universe and smack dab into Grammar Land.
The past few years I’ve been frustrated by the increasing number of misspellings, punctuation errors, and outright typos in PUBLISHED books. SpellCheck and her sibling GrammarCheck are NOT your friends. They will not rescue you from all manner of mistakes, fumble-fingered or otherwise.
With unpublished manuscripts, errors are that much worse. With a great one, they make me wonder if the writer just couldn’t be bothered to proof-read her work. With a manuscript short of great, they add to negative impressions and become one more obstacle to reaching the goal: getting an agent and getting published.
Why give an agent or an editor – or even your faithful critique partner – a reason to say no? Why let such small things get in the way of your dream?
The easiest way to find such errors? Have someone wholly unfamiliar with your work read it. Fresh eyes do a world of good. Can’t find a pair of fresh eyes? Read your manuscript a new way – on a Kindle or in print. Do NOT read it on your computer. (If you absolutely must, try changing the font to something completely different.)
I’m begging you. For your manuscript’s sake, don’t blow off those misspellings, transposed letters, missing commas and more. We all make mistakes. Heck, I’m constitutionally unable to type “from.” I always type “form.” (Thank goodness for the delete key! I hated typing – even with those fancy typewriters with a correction ribbon.) The Find/Replace function is an easy way to check for similar bugaboos.
Do Janet, her fellow agents, editors, and their readers a favor. Don’t send out error-ridden queries and manuscripts. Please. We’re begging you. And so is your story.