Recently, I was reading book #1 in a new-to-me YA series. I’ll admit that I have some misgivings about the series simply based on the topic but after speaking to the publicist I wanted to give the book a chance.
The book is in the first person and I’m getting to know the character pretty well. I know what she misses and what she dislikes.
So there I sit reading merrily along when I get to a new chapter. The character is meeting her best friend at a formal dance and makes a comment that said friend has on a lovely dress and compares it to her tux. Hmm. That’s interesting. She’s in a tux. Then I read on a bit more and realize that I’m deep into chapter two and I’ve just now discovered that the main character is a boy.
I read several more chapters but just couldn’t get back into the story. The author had lost me.
And it isn’t that I thought a girl was in a tux. I would have cared. Just as I wouldn’t have cared that a boy was in a dress. Sorry. These kinds of things don’t phase me. But not setting the character up well enough completely pulled me out of the story. Don’t do that to your reader. You ran the risk of loosing her completely.
What else can pull your reader out of the story?
Dialogue that doesn’t sound right. Whether it sounds inaccurate in terms of time or culture or just out of character.
Purple prose. Overwrought descriptions and phrases that sound like just . . . too . . . much need to go.
Continuity Errors. If your character has green eyes in chapter one, make sure he still has green eyes in chapter six.
Infodumps. Even if it means leaving out some marvelous facts, keep descriptions and back story brief.
Missing transitions. Whether you jump in terms of time or space, make sure your reader knows where they are.
Keep your reader engaged. Don’t scare them away with sloppy writing!