Before I started writing I was a reader. I read all of the time. It was not unusual for me to read a book in a weekend and probably two or three more during the week. Yes, I went without sleep – A Lot. My husband considered taking out stock in my favorite bookstores because I spent so much money there. When birthdays and Christmas came around, the family only needed to decide on a gift card from my favorite bookstore or my favorite gardening place. Either one was good.
But, then I started writing. I loved my first novel. Loved my characters, the story and everything about it. Then, I learned the rules. First, I had to cut over 100,000 words from that first draft. Yes, 100,000 – that is not a typo - the manuscript was 225,000 words. But, the problems didn’t stop there. I had more that one point of view (POV) in a scene, used too many “ly” and “ing” words. Of course, the word “that” appeared far too often to be acceptable in the market. I probably could have cut the manuscript 25,000 words by just removing “that”.
The thing is, I didn’t notice these rules when I was reading. I fell in love with stories, other worlds, and incredible characters. I didn’t notice if there was more than one POV or something may have not been written in past-tense. If I did notice a typo, no big deal. These things happen, right? Did it take away from the story? No. But now, I notice when the "rules" are broken in a published novel. It doesn't happen all that often, but I wonder how the author got away with it. However, the unpublished need to be very careful with the rules if they want a publisher and/or agent to notice them.
Personally, I think rules are good. It does make for a cleaner, less confusing story. But, some rules can be broke (in my opinion). If each and every rule was followed to the letter I feel the story would be dry. Of course, that is just me.
So, is it just writers who are conscious of the rules when reading a novel? I am curious, and this question is for the reader in you, and all readers out there, what pet peeves do you have when you are reading? Is there something that makes you want to put the book down? What is it you want to see in a good story and what drives you nuts?