I was zipping along, wondering when the nasty house guest was going to get hers, and then I came to a screeching halt. The flute teacher "dueted" with her student. What? Duet is a verb? Since when? My computer spell check doesn't think it is, but my computer spell check is pretty dumb and frequently gets me into trouble.
Being the kind of reader I am (remember, I like books that teach me something and this was surely something I didn't know) I picked up the dictionary by my foot. The American Heritage Dictionary lists duet as a noun, not a verb. So I dashed off emails to two friends, one a musician and one a wordsmith. Both replied they didn't think "duet" was a verb, but when they looked it up, sure enough it was. Since 1822 apparently. My own hardcover OED, which I consulted after the fact, said yes it can be a verb, but it didn't give any further information, an example or a date of use.
I don't know how an author can tell that they have written something that will tear the reader out of the work and into some other mental endeavor. Do my readers put down the book and look up the history of fingerprinting to see if Emily actually could have found the murderer by the bloody print on the weapon? Does my pedantic use of an unfamiliar word rip the reader away from the text? I once used "antidisestablishmentarianism" in a manuscript. That isn't a word one gets to use a whole lot any more. It has to do with the government approved church. If you want to know more, look it up or email your friends. That particular manuscript has yet to be published, but you can bet that word will vanish with the first editing.
Authors really can't know how readers will react to the things they write. Writers see the work from the inside. They know way more about any story that actually ends up on the page. It takes a reader who isn't so intimately involved with the manuscript to find the jarring moments that seem so perfect to the writer. An editor reads like a reader not like an author. I can't tell you how many times my manuscripts have been saved by good editing.
Am I going back to finish reading the book? Absolutely. I am dying to know what happens to the wicked house guest.