Remember those little intelligence tests, disguised as games, they subjected us to in grade school? (Or, if you’re a civil service employee, the ones you had to pass to get your job.) Well, by my own unscientific sampling, I’ve concluded that most writers would probably fail them—at least the ones that ask “Which one of these is not like the others?” You know, where there are five shapes that, at first glance, appear to be the same, but in reality one of them has some tiny anomaly. Or a glaring one.
It simply wouldn’t matter to my beta-readers.
I say this with some authority because I have just completed the beta-reader review process for my forthcoming comedic novel, Senseless Confidential (a fun book to read, by the way). Out of seven beta-readers, across three distinct instances of glaring continuity errors, only one was spotted by a single reader. These errors were as follows:
- A character named Eric throughout the book was called Randy near the end. No one noticed.
- A strip bar called the Safari Club at the outset was then called the Jungle Room forever after. No one noticed.
- A vehicle introduced as a Nissan Pathfinder early on was continually referred to nearly a dozen times afterward as a (Toyota) 4Runner. Only my sister noticed. (And no one noticed that the latter was misspelled as “Forerunner.”)
Does this mean that readers don’t care enough to notice such details? I don’t think so. (Because we all know how brutal they can be when they find errors and they go viral on the Web.) My take is that, even when readers are asked to look for errors, they get carried away by a great story. You know how it is when you’re “in the zone” of a good book; you let your cinematic brain project the action onto a screen that has no words—just moving pictures.
So I count it a compliment that, except in one instance, seven people tasked with vetting my latest work got so into it that they failed to be tripped up by such obvious mistakes! Of course, this also makes the perfectionist in me nervous that when the book is finalized this week, too many errors will persist.
We shall see. But I’m willing to bet that when you get your copy you won’t notice them either.