The right eye? The left?
Nah. Not what I meant at all, even though the blog title produces just such a visual.
I refer to a writer's eye, or a reader's eye.
Just this morning, I had a conversation with my son and his girlfriend; it produced the question. And, thank heaven, they don't run when the conversation turns to writing, reading and the ever-changing publishing landscape. They patiently listen and then offer their own thoughts and ideas. Thank heaven--because I so enjoy and appreciate gaining a glimpse through a reader's eye.
My daughter, Zigzee, who does some writing, has a degree in English. When she first began to read my work, she commented to me that she had a tough time shutting off her "writer's eye". The grammar and punctuation mistakes were glaring to her.
I didn't understand, at first. But after nearly a decade of studying the craft, and writing, writing, writing, I too have developed the "writer's eye". But, thankfully, my writer's eye is not so dominant that I can't still see out of my reader's eye. I think that helps me to read work that has been less than professionally edited.
Online, I interact with a lot of writers and authors, sharing opinions, ideas, and views. But to me, this personal interaction--like this morning, is even more telling--and arguably even more important: the view of readers. And when you get readers to talk with you--people who look at books using their "reader's" eye, you hear opinions that are rather different than having someone share their thoughts while looking through their writer's eye. After all, the readers are the end users of a writer's product. And if they aren't happy with the product, then they aren't buying it.
When this morning's conversation got to specifics, it turned to bad ebooks. And we proceeded to dissect just what makes an ebook (or any book for that matter), a disappointment, or a "would never recommend" book. What makes us decide that it is not very good?
My son's girlfriend, Bobbi--who reads tons and tons of books, told me that it is the sense of story that she values most. It is not punctuation errors that influence her opinion--with the exception of books that contain so many that they become a distraction. She said that if a story is good, she will read it. But she does read excerpts--to check the nuts and bolts of the writing.
Then my son added that he reads excerpts of books when deciding whether to buy, too. But, he is looking for a story. Not looking to see if mistakes were made in the writing.
POV...unless it is blatant head-hopping with shallowly developed characters, it does not bother Bobbi, either.
Then the discussion delved into punctuation, mostly.
I shared my experience of interacting with frustrated authors who aren't sure how to find their way out of the ebook glut--many written to a lower standard. This was specific to grammar and punctuation, by the way.
During the course of discussing different books that we liked or didn't like, we had to admit that some of them included less than stellar punctuation, and a few even had misspelled words.
But, it came back to the story. Did it grip us? Did the characters resonate with us? Punctuation be damned (to an extent) <smiling> , we would even buy sequels by the same author.
Even so, for the errors to not become distracting, we both said that we required the author to have a certain level of proficiency in written English.
But...just what is that "certain" level?
Our conclusion was this: writers who are well-educated in proper grammar usage, proper punctuation, and all other elements of our written language, are the most likely to hold in disdain, writing of lesser proficiency. And we wondered if a side effect of that education and then increased practice of the craft, created a "writer's eye"?
Disclaimer: I don't write this with any kind of judgement of those writers. How could I judge them? I learn from them all and am quite grateful for that. I bow to their knowledge--and the hard work it took for them to acquire it.
Nor do I judge any writer--I like to think that we all write to the best of our ability. And if we are lacking, we constantly strive to educate ourselves...to enable ourselves to produce better and better writing. There is always an audience to be found. The karma is this: the size of that audience is likely determined by just how well we write. But, it seems that "how well we write" might be judged just as much by the story itself, as it is by the vocabulary, sentence structure, and punctuation.
Above, I freely admitted that I don't buy books or read books containing so many errors that they are distracting to me. And to those who hone their writing craft to perfection, perhaps, while viewing with a writer's eye-- the work of other writers, they are just as distracted by the mistake that writers such as myself-- and other less proficient writers, make.
The answer we came up with this morning is this: we rarely notice the mistakes of those more proficient than we are. We aren't educated to a comprehension of when a mistake is even a mistake. I really don't mean for this to sound like a tongue-twister. To be thorough, The mistakes of those less proficient in proper writing... jump out at us. We see them because we comprehend them.
Now, to extrapolate from that, it might help us when we are frustrated--to consider our audience. The vast majority of readers, book consumers, and those who determine the popularity of any given book or author, are not holding degrees in English.
Thus, the difference in the eye one reads with. Writers who read, readers who write, and flat-out readers with their wonderful reading eyes might all see things differently.
I know it hurts to accept that with the changing market due to ebooks surging, a lesser quality of writing (speaking of grammar and punctuation) might become the new norm. But ultimately, the consumer drives the market. Your thoughts?