As both a reader and a writer I read books not only for entertainment, but also to learn. I’ve heard that writers need to read well-written books so they can learn and grow as a writer. I agree with that. I think that reading not-so-well-written books can actually help, too. By reading some of the latter, we begin to understand what some of the writers’ guides tell us about point-of-view, speech tags, show-don’t tell, etc.
Well-written books can have problems, too. I can say that nearly every book I’ve read or written has a least a couple of typos–you know, those pesky little omitted letters or commas, the transposed letters or the extra line space. Even books published by the biggest publishing companies have them.
When I was doing research for my novel about a genius professor, I read books about gifted people. I laughed when I found a severely misspelled word in the book. That’s irony. I’ve seen those kinds of errors in books written by literary agents and editors, too. What it tells me is that we all make mistakes.
How can we avoid them? We probably can’t–at least not entirely.
It helps to get a fresh pair of eyes reading a manuscript right before publishing–preferably someone who has never read the book. Seeing the story for the first time, a reader might spot a mistake that the author’s eyes repeatedly glossed over because the author knew what he or she meant to say even if the letters in the words got mixed up. That said, the author or editor needs to also proofread, because he or she is the most likely person to catch other kinds of errors–such as a character called by the wrong name, someone’s eyes accidentally changing color, etc.
Another common error is incorrect punctuation. For many of us, it’s been too long since we studied grammar and punctuation in school. We try to rely on our memories, but what we really need is refreshers. I highly recommend taking the time to read books about grammar and punctuation periodically, especially in conjunction with the final proofread of your book before sending it off to a literary agent or publisher, or before self-publishing. It won’t catch everything, but it does help. When writing a first draft, though, it’s not so important to cross every t and dot every i. Let your ideas and your writing flow. Then, when the draft is done and you’re happy with the plot and characters, you can work on those details.