Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Plugging the Holes

This may sound a bit stupid, but all writers have different strengths and weaknesses. The key is to figure out yours and then do something about them.

During my “day job,” I serve on the board of my temple. As a vice president, I oversee several committees and help plan our strategic direction. I work with a phenomenal group of people and we all bring different skills to the table. One of the skills I bring is writing. Thus, when there are letters to be crafted or edited, all eyes turn to me—at which point I go all “deer in the headlights” and whisper, “crap.” J

One of the things that drives me crazy in this job is the communications that go out either with errors or with language that can be improved to better convey the type of organization we are. However, I have friends who are driven crazy by typos in emails. And our pet peeves aren’t that different from those of other readers and writers.

I’ve seen multiple discussions on blogs about how errors in books pull you out of the story; how once you’re a writer, you never look at the writing in a book the same way again; how reviewers rate books based on their editing. All of these are valid points.

As a writer, it’s up to me to determine where my strengths and weaknesses are. I happen to be very good at crafting the words and getting the message across. My grammar is strong. However, I still make mistakes and typos and no matter how many times I proofread, I miss things. That’s why a critique partner who is obsessed with punctuation, consistency (making sure all mentions of the hero’s eye color are consistent) and the rest of the small things is essential for me. I don’t need the ideas so much, although those are helpful; I need the copyediting.

I’m a much better copyeditor of other people’s work than my own; the distance allows me to see things that I can’t see in my own work. But I’m also really good at identifying motivation problems and plot holes. So people who ask me to critique their work get that from me.

The key is to match up a critique partner with the writer’s needs. In my opinion, it’s less important whether that partner is published or unpublished. It’s more important that they fill in the skills that the writer lacks.

So, what are your pet peeves in writing? What are your skills and weaknesses? How do you compensate?


  1. I can cope with typos, and even some iffy punctuation, but I do confess to being a 'Grammar Nazi' as poor grammar really bugs me. 'Dangling modifiers ' might make me smile, but I can immediately go off an author who writes 'She was stood' and 'He was sat'.
    I know my grammar is okay (I had a very good grammar education at school), and realistic dialogue is one of my strengths. My main weakness is describing places. Even though I can 'see' a room or scenery in my mind's eye, I can't describe them! So my descriptions tend to be fairly bland (in other words, boring!).

  2. Now that I am a grammar junkie, I notice typos in published works. The 398-page print book I just finished had over twenty glaring errors. The e-book before that had just one, but even that jarred me.
    Geesh, don't these people have editors?

  3. 20 in 398 pages isn't bad actually - at least, compared with 50 Shades. Not that I've read the latter, but from what I've heard, it seemed to be totally unedited, with millions of repeat words and phrases. Most criticisms of it say it is very badly written - so where was the editor?

  4. I find it difficult to turn off that inner editor when I'm reading something...especially if I'm in a writing mode as well.

    And I'm way better at finding errors in other's work than my own. I do think it's a 'distancing' thing. No matter how many times I read and reread my own work, I still usually find an error in the published work. Drives me crazy!

    I have a very minor pet peeve...my editor (several of them actually) always tells me not to use copyrighted words and products. It makes me so jealous when I see them in other stories. To me, in some cases not using them takes away some of the authenticity. Then again, I don't want to get sued, so I'll live with it, right?

  5. Debra, I've heard that TWRP has a 'thing' about not using product names. It makes me wonder if one of their authors has been sued in the past, so they're playing safe?
    I've used 'Guinness' several times in my 'Irish Inheritance' story and am waiting to see if my editor allows it. Using 'Irish stout' instead would probably make every Irish reader laugh!

  6. BTW, it occurs to me that some trademarks have become generic terms e.g aspirin, biro, cellophane, even Band-Aid and Bubble Wrap. Wonder how one is supposed to distinguish between the generic and the copyrighted?

  7. I've wondered about trademarked names.
    Songs are expensive--$10,000 to have characters sing Happy Birthday. My daughter produced an indie film called Happy Birthday, Rita. The project was so small, the director decided to leave it in and risk getting sued. "If the film goes big, we'll have enough money to pay a lawyer."
    it didn't, so she's safe.

  8. An interesting addendum to this, Ana, is that in the EU copyright lasts for 70 years after the author's death. As the last surviving author of 'Happy Birthday' died in 1946, the copyright will end on Dec 31 1916in the EU. However, because USA laws are different, the copyright won't expire there until 2030 (95 years after the song was copyrighted in 1935)
    That's my bit of trivia for today!