Saturday, 9 June 2012

Comedy of Errors

I find it very difficult to stand back and take a good objective look at my work. Poor sentence structure, bad  grammar and spelling that would send me to the back of the class in primary school are shrouded by the plot and characters that are so firmly embedded in my brain. For me to find the errors, is like trying to entangle a massive Wordsearch puzzle. Hence the freedom or lack of discipline that I allow myself as a creator has caused my affliction.
I attend a writing group that I feel comfortable enough to share samples of my work. This is better than taking criticism from my nearest and dearest.
Here is a list of my most common errors that I make.
Overuse of specific words, for example: 'That' as a pronoun and as an adjective. 
Overuse of character's names, both in narrative and dialogue. The reader will become very quickly irritated if they are needlessly but constantly reminded of the character's name.
I get my tenses mixed up: 'he walked across the room' and on the next page 'he walks back.'Apostrophes.  When you need one they never appear and when you don't need one you can guarantee you'll get two.  'Is that you're car?' she asked. I gasp in amazement trying to fathom out how I could make such a basic mistake.
Spelling is so bad my poor computer needs a memory upgrade just to keep up with the spell checker which is constantly working in overdrive.  ' You no what?' is an error that is not beneath me.
Bad word processing. Cutting and pasting is the work of Satan. I was never good at cutting and pasting wallpaper when decorating. The pattern never quite lined up and the seams show. The same happens in writing.
One of the greatest gifts that I have been taught is how to touch type. I can turn my head away from the screen and smile to myself as my fingers appear to do a highland fling on my keyboard. When I'm sat at a keyboard, I become Beethoven playing the final draft of a symphony. My typing speed is not up to secretarial standard but it keeps up with my thoughts at a rate I would never manage with pen and paper.
Maybe I should go back to pen and paper, but maybe not. I can see my wheelie bin now stuffed with screwed up sheets of paper... it's definitely not green.
I tell myself that other writers must share my afflictions, and perhaps even Dickens, Joyce, Hardy, Wilde got bogged down from time to time picking out too many adjectives  and greengrocer's  apostrophes.
The National Gallery have x-ray facilities that can find the underpainting of great artists such as Leonardo De Vince, which uncovers the changes that were made illustrating the artist's struggle to find the optimum composition, It's exactly same for writers.
Henley's Ricotta is now complete in first draft. Now I have to pull some weeds out,  some pruning and  then maybe I'll stop fiddling with it and submit.


  1. It's all about the dreaded editing, John - we all hate it but it's essential :-(

    Nice article x

  2. Thanks Ricki. Good luck with the book signing at Waterstones :-)

  3. I proof and edit the work of others as part of my job John - it is so much easier than proofing one's own work. That is very difficult. At the moment, when proofing work that is not mine, I have a war with commas. I subscribe to the idea that less is more in most things but the total absence of commas? I always carry a bag of them with me just in case :-)

  4. I have to keep myself on a tight rein, when I'm writing, as I have a propensity to write in long sentences without commas, which would leave a reader breathless should it be read out loud. Commas, at least allows the reader to take a breath, and puts the sentence in the right context, but generally I during an edit I look to fragment my sentences into shorter snappier dialogue,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    If you need a new comma bag Deborah, I found one for you. Just follow the link :-)

  5. Hi John, haha! I quite like that comma bag! Our newest recruit, a young designer, was nervous of knowing where commas and apostrophes went when writing copy for things like an e-shot. I mentor her a little and having given her the general rules ofr apostrohes, I told her, if she thinks it might be wrong, just to say it another way. Generally, it works. Her copy is now much better.