Author Topic: The most common mistakes of craft, or "Come on, folks, this is your profession!"  (Read 3524 times)

elleoco

The thing is, ordinary readers, ones who've never taken a creative writing class or tried to write, don't notice.

Oh, yes. This very thing spoiled reading for me after I began to write and learn all the "rules." Can't say I'm totally over it, but at least I can enjoy reading again now, although I'm even fussier than I used to be. The absolute that still annoys me more than anything (because I no longer can avoid noticing) is the "rule" against switching POV within a scene. Bad, bad, bad. Guess what? I just finished rereading an Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley mystery, and she....

Another author I used to enjoy is now forever spoiled for me because in her successful, long-running series she switches POV not just within scenes, but within paragraphs. The last of her books I read, unhappy every page of the way, I swear there was a switch mid-sentence.

And it makes me bare my teeth in defiance every time I start a sentence with and (or but). Although that taboo was beaten into me in grade school. Like don't use incomplete sentences.

Rose Andrews

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"He crouched down."

What other direction could he crouch?
Irk mode for real on this one. What is crouching other than going down?
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Tom Wood

OTOH, apparently the only direction to screw is up!  :hehe
 

David VanDyke

The absolute that still annoys me more than anything (because I no longer can avoid noticing) is the "rule" against switching POV within a scene. Bad, bad, bad. Guess what? I just finished rereading an Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley mystery, and she....

Another author I used to enjoy is now forever spoiled for me because in her successful, long-running series she switches POV not just within scenes, but within paragraphs. The last of her books I read, unhappy every page of the way, I swear there was a switch mid-sentence.

That's simply the 3P Omniscient POV (unlimited). It's fallen out of favor in modern times.

Yet, the problem usually comes in the execution. Properly executed, the changes in perspective, also called narrative view (not POV, actually--this term is misused a lot), will seem natural and seamless. If badly executed, the changes will be confusing and irritating--head-hopping, as it were. 3P Omniscient (limited) is actually among the most common POVs to write in, where the narrator changes perspective, say from the detective to the killer and back, but creates a distinct break, such as a new chapter, to keep everything clear. The other choice is 3PPOV limited to one character, often called "deep third," where everything's told from the viewpoint of a single character, but the construction is 3PPOV rather than 1PPOV.
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David VanDyke

"He crouched down."

What other direction could he crouch?
Irk mode for real on this one. What is crouching other than going down?

How about "He thought in his head..."

Where else could he think? In his elbow?
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Becca Mills

Came across a tricky vocab mix-up: hocking one's wares. It should be hawking.
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Angstriddengoddess

Came across a tricky vocab mix-up: hocking one's wares. It should be hawking.

Trying to see how one could make that work.
"The haberdasher said, 'If that's true, I'll eat my hat!' A moment later, he was hocking up his wares."

I've forgotten the term for this, but my pet peeve is writers who don't understand the difference between sequential action and simultaneous action.

Instead of "He laughed and ate his hat" they write, "Laughing, he ate his hat." You cannot eat and laugh at the same time. Unless the next sentence starts, "Choking, he hocked..."
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David VanDyke

Came across a tricky vocab mix-up: hocking one's wares. It should be hawking.

Unless he pawned them.
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Becca Mills

Came across a tricky vocab mix-up: hocking one's wares. It should be hawking.

Unless he pawned them.

Yeah, I think that use of "hock" is probably what generates the mix-up. It sounds almost the same, both words are sales-related ... eggcorn waiting to happen.
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Jo

To me that reads like a software error, probably when dictating the text.
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Becca Mills

To me that reads like a software error, probably when dictating the text.

Ah, that could well be! Hadn't thought of that.
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Doglover

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Would of being used instead of would've/would have. Any of the '-ould' words.
That really pisses me off. I don't even like it when it's spoken, never mind when it's written and often in places where it should definitely be correct.

The one that really puts my blood pressure up is misplaced apostrophes. That I cannot be doing with.
 

Robin


Would of being used instead of would've/would have. Any of the '-ould' words.
That really pisses me off. I don't even like it when it's spoken, never mind when it's written and often in places where it should definitely be correct.

The one that really puts my blood pressure up is misplaced apostrophes. That I cannot be doing with.

'Would of' 'Should of'  :HB That really gets on my nerves, though I haven't come across it in a book - yet.

This one is controversial, but I can't stand it when people use 'addicting' instead of 'addictive'. It might not be technically wrong (arguable), but it is so weird and distracting that it makes me want to throw my kindle against the wall.
 

Doglover

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"He crouched down."

What other direction could he crouch?
Irk mode for real on this one. What is crouching other than going down?

How about "He thought in his head..."

Where else could he think? In his elbow?
It's funny you should say that. My adult son, who was born with brain damage, very often says 'I was thinking in my head'. Of course, he's special and nobody would dream of correcting him (not if they want to live, anyway) and it's rather sweet. He didn't talk at all until he was five or six so now he's very explicit.
 

Doglover

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The thing is, ordinary readers, ones who've never taken a creative writing class or tried to write, don't notice.

Oh, yes. This very thing spoiled reading for me after I began to write and learn all the "rules." Can't say I'm totally over it, but at least I can enjoy reading again now, although I'm even fussier than I used to be. The absolute that still annoys me more than anything (because I no longer can avoid noticing) is the "rule" against switching POV within a scene. Bad, bad, bad. Guess what? I just finished rereading an Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley mystery, and she....

Another author I used to enjoy is now forever spoiled for me because in her successful, long-running series she switches POV not just within scenes, but within paragraphs. The last of her books I read, unhappy every page of the way, I swear there was a switch mid-sentence.

And it makes me bare my teeth in defiance every time I start a sentence with and (or but). Although that taboo was beaten into me in grade school. Like don't use incomplete sentences.
It seems that it's necessary, for dramatic effect, to sometimes start a sentence with 'and' in fiction, but every time I do it, I can hear my English teacher shouting in my ear.

Elizabeth George made a couple of big mistakes which put me off her books, the biggest of which was killing off Lynley's wife.
 

WordMend

One thing I notice a lot of writers do, especially when writing very long pieces, is to not have consistency throughout their work. If a minor character's name is "Eric" in one chapter and "Erik" in another, it seems a bit careless, and readers will notice.

However, a lot of mistakes are just simply typos and very simple grammatical errors. "Its 12:00," for instance, or "The shoe's are black," or "I should of thought of that."

But then again, these tend to be the people who can build a whole new world with characters and a fun plot to fit inside it, something I can't do. We all have our strengths, I suppose!
 

David VanDyke

Once is a typo. The same mistake repeated throughout the book represents something the author needs to learn and correct going forward.

Here's one I ran across today, but it's pretty common.

Awhile is an adverb that means "for a short time.

A while is a noun meaning a longer, but undetermined, amount of time.

Yes, it's a bit hard to get your head around "while" being an adverb, with a meaning somewhat like "quickly." It's archaic, and frankly, it shouldn't be used much anymore (who says "please tarry awhile" nowadays?), because in nearly every case I've seen where "awhile" is used in modern English, it should be "a while." The most common construction is he/she/they "waited a while," or occasionally "you'll have to wait a while..."  Note that using "awhile" almost exactly reverses the most common meaning.

So, dear friends, my suggestion is to simply strike "awhile" from your vocabulary, at least until you are certain, because 99% of the time, "a while" is what you mean.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2018, 05:33:38 AM by David VanDyke »
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Doglover

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So, dear friends, my suggesting is to simply strike "awhile" from your vocabulary, at least until you are certain, because 99% of the time, "a while" is what you mean.
Sorry, did you mean 'suggestion'?  :hehe
 

Tom Wood


So, dear friends, my suggesting is to simply strike "awhile" from your vocabulary, at least until you are certain, because 99% of the time, "a while" is what you mean.
Sorry, did you mean 'suggestion'?  :hehe

We're all going to end up installing Grammarly to check our posts!  :hehe
 

David VanDyke


So, dear friends, my suggesting is to simply strike "awhile" from your vocabulary, at least until you are certain, because 99% of the time, "a while" is what you mean.
Sorry, did you mean 'suggestion'?  :hehe

Yes, thanks!

Damn you autocorrect!

This is why I have two proofreaders go over every book I publish...
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Doglover

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So, dear friends, my suggesting is to simply strike "awhile" from your vocabulary, at least until you are certain, because 99% of the time, "a while" is what you mean.
Sorry, did you mean 'suggestion'?  :hehe

Yes, thanks!

Damn you autocorrect!

This is why I have two proofreaders go over every book I publish...
Sorry, David, I couldn't resist being as it's this thread. I seriously detest autocorrect and I refuse to use any feature or machine that does things for me. Some inventions are useful; others are a bloody nuisance.  :icon_lol2:
 

David VanDyke

I don't actually think I have autocorrect on but it's a great excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Sometimes I think I have an autocorrect in my brain, or maybe it's a form of dyslexia. Ever since I received a relatively mild traumatic brain injury (also know as a concussion), ironically not on any of my combat tours, but rather from falling on an icy surface on a ski trip in Switzerland, I've had a form of aphasia. For a while I couldn't articulate some words for several seconds, even though I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I could write the words, though, usually, so it was something to do with speaking, not the formation of text in my brain.

Now, though, what occasionally happens is that I know exactly what I am trying to say, but somewhere between my conceptual thought processes and my fingers, it transforms into a similar word. For example, I'll want to write "think" but what comes out on the page is "thing," despite the k and g keys being 4 apart. In some cases, it comes out as above--suggesting for suggestion, which requires several completely different keystrokes.

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The Doctor

"Y'all goin' out 'night?" He asked.


I've never heard anyone drop the first syllable of "tonight" altogether.   :Hqn66ku:  I agree that writing dialect like that is inadvisable, but it's especially inadvisable if it comes across to native speakers as erroneous.



Where I am, in Scotland, you can regularly hear people say things like "Are you going out the night?" or "I think I'll stay in, the night" meaning "tonight".

Don't know if it's a Scottish Borders/lowlands thing or if it's widespread in Scotland.

 

David VanDyke

Not writing on this one, but narrating or speaking. Here are a couple doozies I heard recently:

hyperbole spoken as  "hyper-bole."

facade spoken as "fake-aid"

This demonstrates the necessity of "proof-listening" when creating shows or audiobooks.

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spin52

The one that irks me is when something is 'kind of unique' or 'somewhat unique'. There aren't degrees of uniqueness. Either it's unique or it isn't.


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Llano

These have been used incorrectly for so long that nobody even thinks they're wrong anymore, including judges:

"$5 million" says "five million dollars."
"$5 million dollars" says "five million dollars dollars."
"$5 million bucks" says "five million dollars bucks."

"50 cents" says "fifty cents."
".50 cents" says "half a cent."

 

Jeff Tanyard

".50 cents" says "half a cent."


When I collected coins as a kid, I always thought it would be cool to have a half cent.  I don't think I ever saw one at the local coin store, though.

For those who have never heard of the half-cent coin:

Half Cent
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Doglover

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The thing is, ordinary readers, ones who've never taken a creative writing class or tried to write, don't notice.

Oh, yes. This very thing spoiled reading for me after I began to write and learn all the "rules." Can't say I'm totally over it, but at least I can enjoy reading again now, although I'm even fussier than I used to be. The absolute that still annoys me more than anything (because I no longer can avoid noticing) is the "rule" against switching POV within a scene. Bad, bad, bad. Guess what? I just finished rereading an Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley mystery, and she....

Another author I used to enjoy is now forever spoiled for me because in her successful, long-running series she switches POV not just within scenes, but within paragraphs. The last of her books I read, unhappy every page of the way, I swear there was a switch mid-sentence.

And it makes me bare my teeth in defiance every time I start a sentence with and (or but). Although that taboo was beaten into me in grade school. Like don't use incomplete sentences.
I have no problem with switching POV; I do it myself all the time, although never mid-sentence or even mid-paragraph. I used to love Jean Plaidy until I started writing and realised she had an intensive love affair with the semi-colon - I mean, three or four in one sentence. She also likes to say: 'he shrugged his shoulders'. What the hell else would he shrug?

Elizabeth George made a big deal about Lynley and another character driving illegally because they didn't have their driving licences with them. We don't need to in England; it is enough to legally have one. She also doesn't realise that working class girls from Acton don't tend to say 'one does'.

I could cope with the latter, but not the former.

One thing that pees me off enormously is when an author makes a big deal out of something that is irrelevant to the story.
 

VanessaC

One thing that pees me off enormously is when an author makes a big deal out of something that is irrelevant to the story.

This reminded me of at least a couple of occasions where American writers went into great detail about British table manners - apparently we use different hands for holding our forks / cutting our food? In one case it was about half a page and I was even more confused by the end. Had the urge to go get a plate, knife and fork to check what the writer was describing.
 

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Doglover

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One thing that pees me off enormously is when an author makes a big deal out of something that is irrelevant to the story.

This reminded me of at least a couple of occasions where American writers went into great detail about British table manners - apparently we use different hands for holding our forks / cutting our food? In one case it was about half a page and I was even more confused by the end. Had the urge to go get a plate, knife and fork to check what the writer was describing.
I've been to the States a few times and can't say I've ever noticed. I always hold my knife and fork the wrong way round, fork on the right, knife on the left. I'm not left handed; my mother used to say I was cack handed!
 

Becca Mills

One thing that pees me off enormously is when an author makes a big deal out of something that is irrelevant to the story.

This reminded me of at least a couple of occasions where American writers went into great detail about British table manners - apparently we use different hands for holding our forks / cutting our food? In one case it was about half a page and I was even more confused by the end. Had the urge to go get a plate, knife and fork to check what the writer was describing.

My understanding (could be wrong) is that Americans tend to hold their fork on the left and knife on the right while cutting. After cutting, they set down the knife, transfer the fork to the right hand, and bring the fork to the mouth. In other countries, people very sensibly just keep the fork in the left hand throughout.

We do try to be willfully weird over here.  :icon_mrgreen:
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David VanDyke

I believe that's the "recommended" method for old-timey etiquette, taught in the past, but I don't think there is a standard anymore in America. People do whatever they want.

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spin52

I believe that's the "recommended" method for old-timey etiquette, taught in the past, but I don't think there is a standard anymore in America. People do whatever they want.
I think the standard these days is to eat with your fingers.


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Doglover

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I believe that's the "recommended" method for old-timey etiquette, taught in the past, but I don't think there is a standard anymore in America. People do whatever they want.
I think the standard these days is to eat with your fingers.
Well, I'm glad to hear the Americans are finally catching on to traditional London etiquette. There is, after all, no other way to eat fish and chips, shrimps and mussels.  :dance:
 

VanessaC

One thing that pees me off enormously is when an author makes a big deal out of something that is irrelevant to the story.

This reminded me of at least a couple of occasions where American writers went into great detail about British table manners - apparently we use different hands for holding our forks / cutting our food? In one case it was about half a page and I was even more confused by the end. Had the urge to go get a plate, knife and fork to check what the writer was describing.

My understanding (could be wrong) is that Americans tend to hold their fork on the left and knife on the right while cutting. After cutting, they set down the knife, transfer the fork to the right hand, and bring the fork to the mouth. In other countries, people very sensibly just keep the fork in the left hand throughout.

We do try to be willfully weird over here.  :icon_mrgreen:

Thanks, Becca - I knew there was a difference described, but couldn't remember what it was.  I'm sure the writer thought it was important for the story, but to my mind, in both cases, it could simply have been replaced with "he had good table manners" or something similarly bland, or indeed nothing at all, rather than the odd mental gymnastics I ended up trying to perform.
 

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