That Which Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen, Or Why Becoming a Better Editor Sometimes Stinks

Like a lot of writers, I was a reader first. I love getting lost in books, love discovering new characters and escaping into different worlds. The problem is, the better I get at writing, the worse I get at reading.

Why?

Because I can’t stop seeing sloppy editing.

Unnecessary ‘that’s! Distancing words! Shallow POV! Head-hopping! Random tense changes! Wandering body parts! Inappropriate epithets! All of them make my skin crawl. Worst of all, they keep me from getting immersed in a poorly edited book.

These days, I spend so much time looking for these nitpicky little problems in my own writing and trying to ferret them out in my critique partners’ manuscripts that I can’t stop seeing them in everything else I read. Amateur writing on the internet? Riddled with errors. Self-published (and not professionally edited) books? Crawling with unnecessary words. Random blog posts? Don’t get me started. Even in beautifully edited books, all I have to see is one questionable bit of wording, and I’m pulled out of the story.

Heck, I cringe watching TV these days. If I had my characters address each other by name in my manuscripts even half as often as TV characters do in a single episode, I’d be red-penned to death. And I actually had to make my husband turn off the last audio book we tried listening to together because the repetitive dialog tags were making me more car-sick than the car was.

No matter what I do, no matter how desperately I need to unwind… When it’s time to relax at the end of my writing day, I try my best to turn my editor brain off, but I just can’t seem to manage it. It’s enough to drive a writer insane!

It’s time to sound off, fellow writers. What are your worst pet peeves when reading others’ writing? How do you make the little editor in the back of your head shut up? Can you even make it be quiet anymore? And if you can’t, how do you cope?

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