It doesn't matter how good the story. It doesn't matter how amazing the theme. Regardless of the strength of the plot or the depth of your characters, I may still stop reading.
Because if your book is badly edited and showing a need for a good proofread, I will struggle to get through it. When punctuation is missing or in the wrong place, it's like a hiccup inside my head. I'm no longer immersed in the story; I'm pulled back into the nuts and bolts of poor syntax, bad grammar and dysfunctional punctuation.
Polish matters. I'm talking about the basic stuff. It's so easy, when you're proofreading something you've written and know so well, not to see the obvious. But when you're a reader, reading for the story's sake, a mistake will rise up and slap you in the face.
I'm a fast reader. The words tumble into my brain and a mistake will jar on me. The flow is interrupted. If that happens too many times, I just won't bother. It's awkward if I know the author. I can't review it, because I can barely get through it, but I don't like to say so.
You might call me picky. You may not even recognise the problem. But it will lose you readers if you don't pay attention, if you neglect to re-read, re-read and oh, yes - read again.
It's not just in published works - if your blog posts are full of typos or your tweets have errant apostrophes, it says something about you as a writer, whether you like it or not.
It's so easy to click post, or update, or send these days. We've all published something online - a blog post, for example - and then realised the day after that it says 'you' where it should say 'your', or that there is a word missing, or a name misspelt. In our eagerness to say what we wish to say, in order to get it out there, to join the debate, we don't scan what we type. We just send.
There will be those who roll their eyes at me. Fair enough. You don't have to agree. Maybe it doesn't jar you; maybe it doesn't interrupt your flow; maybe you can rise above it. But there are plenty who are like me, and if you want to reach as wide an audience as possible, you have to allow for us.
Because we believe that polish matters. And when I write, I want to do the best I can. Not just in what I say but in the detail of how I say it. My idea will be easier to ingest if I present it well. For me, if I'm going to do what I do 'for the Lord', I want to give it my best. The last thing it should be is missing the mark because hey, people won't mind.
A bit of polish is the mark of a professional. It also shows that someone cares enough to give their best.
If you know you type fast and don't check back - perhaps you need to tell yourself to take a breath and read through slowly before you click that button. It may be a bit frustrating, when you want to get it done, but people will respond to something well written. They'll be more willing to read the other things you write, or plan to write in the future.
Now I know there will be those who struggle with this, as I struggle with other things. Maybe it's an issue with dyslexia. Maybe you have difficulty typing, for whatever reason. I'm not having a go at you. But if you know it's an issue, you can put a process in place where your words are sieved by someone else - to see those things that need correcting. Find the people in your life who will give your writing the polish it needs.
I used to be the ACW Competitions' Manager. Some entries were let down by typos and punctuation errors, things that could so easily have been corrected. If they had been, the writing would have had more chance to shine.
It may take a little more time. You may think I'm being picky.
But I still say a bit of polish matters.
Image: volkspider, Creative Commons License
Lucy Mills considers herself a non-fiction writer but does write the odd novel in November. Her first book, Forgetful Heart: remembering God in a distracted world, was published in 2014 by Darton, Longman and Todd (DLT). She's written articles for various Christian magazines and is an editor at Magnet magazine. She also writes poetry and prayers. www.lucy-mills.com