Some writers are naturally able to edit their own stuff. I envy those who fall into that category. Me? Not so much. Oh, I do okay to catch the majority of the boneheaded mistakes I make on a regular basis, but invariably there are some that slip past me. Many times I know what I meant to say, so I’ll confidently breeze past an error without seeing it. It might as well have a Klingon cloaking device strapped to it.
This can instantly undermine what credibility you have if people know you’re a writer. They’ll read an email, blog post or something you did on the fly and think, “Wait, this guy’s an author? Are you sure? Shouldn’t he know better than to make mistakes like that? Shouldn’t his stuff be perfect?”
Truth is, I’m not a very clean typist as my editor, Beth, is all too aware. I routinely look over things I’ve written (including posts on this very blog) and find mistakes that have eluded me. Well, I’m a big proponent of knowing your weaknesses as well as your strengths. So, I put together this list of the Top 4 mistakes that keep cropping up with me.
I mean, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right? Right?
1.) Missing “To” on the Infinitive
Two little keystrokes. Just two. T−O. Yet when they are missing, it can really foul up your sentence when your infinitive isn’t properly introduced by “to.” This is apparently my favorite-ist of favorite mistakes, since I make it more often than any other. I can’t tell you how many I corrected in my original manuscript of “The Backwards Mask.” There are likely a few that made it past the filters, despite all my best efforts.
2.) Dropped Word
Similar to mistake number 1, I will drop a key word from the sentence. The word “not” seems to be a popular one (particularly when the sentence hinges on that one word), but I don’t limit myself just to that. Oh, no…quite the contrary. I’ll go back and look at something I wrote and find something like this:
“With speed fueled by desperation, he spun around to find the glaring red eyes of a staring back at him from the darkness.”
So…is it a vampire? A Decepticon? A guy in dire need of Visine? What?
3.) Repeated Word
Not content to leave words out, sometimes I put extra words in that don’t need to be there. Sometimes this comes from a line break temporarily fooling me into thinking I haven’t already typed it. I wish that was the case every single time. Nope. I merrily add in an extra “the” at random intervals along with “their” and “from.” Sometimes it’s just a word I apparently liked so much I thought it needed to go in twice. You know, for emphasis.
4.) Switching Gears Mid-sentence
Sometimes I pause in the middle of a sentence to think about what I’m really trying to get across in it. I’d like to think that I’m like Socrates in this regard (who would stop and stand in place for hours or days at time while thinking), but chances are that I’m really just second-guessing myself—the literary equivalent of changing horses mid-stream. When I come out of my ponderings, sometimes the second part doesn’t quite match up with first part. I tried to recreate this phenomenon here, but it just didn’t work. You’ll know it when you see it, though I hope they are all fixed by the time you read something of mine. *fingers crossed*
Wow, two Trek references + Shakespeare + Socrates just in pictures alone? That has to be a personal fanboy/nerd best for me. In any case, these are my favorite mistakes…but, you know, not in a Sheryl Crow kind of way.
I put it to you – all my fellow authors out there − what are your favorite mistakes?