Tag Archives: mistakes

Annoying Things: Desert Island

Have you ever read this line?

They were stranded on a desert island.

Have you?  My first thought was that they’ll starve very quickly.  But the story goes on, with them eating fruit from the rainforest that covers the island.

Rainforest…

On a desert island…

Someone missed a couple letters.  A desert island and a deserted island are two completely different things.  I keep hearing desert island all the time.  That’s not what you mean! A desert island is like the country of Bahrain.  It’s a desert and it’s an island.  A deserted island is an uninhabited island.  An island with no one living on it.  That’s most definitely what you mean.

Just one thing that annoys me when I read.  What annoys you?

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Authors Answer 6 – Author Mistakes

For the rest of December, we have a guest author! I’d like to welcome Michael J. Sullivan, the author of the Riyria fantasy series.

As we all know, authors are people.  And people make mistakes.  This is why we write drafts and do a lot of editing.  This is why editors exist.  It’s also why authors often have beta readers pick apart their books.  It’s a reason I also use a critique group.  They help catch many of my mistakes.

pink-erasersQuestion 6: Which mistake or bad habit in writing is the most difficult for you to stop doing?

Michael J. Sullivan

There are plenty of things I do wrong, but I wouldn’t classify them as “bad habits.”  I have a system that works well for me, so my “habits” are generally positive ones. For instance, I write at the same time every day, right after I wake up and have had some coffee.

Because writing is my favorite pastime, I don’t have issues with “internet distraction,” an “inability to get my butt in the chair,” or procrastination, like some authors do. As for the mistakes I commonly make, I used to be terrible with comma placement, adding and removing them constantly.  Having worked with some great copy editors over the years, I’m better about this now. Even so, I would say it’s still a weakness of mine. Another issue for me is that there are words I commonly mix up, such as lose and loose. Then there are words I’ve “improperly learned,” which I don’t even realize are wrong. For instance, I always write perform as preform as I’m not cognizant there are two different words.  No matter how many times my wife reminds me of this fact, I’ll still write it wrong. Luckily for me, she keeps a list of these common mistakes and squashes them on my behalf, so I don’t embarrass myself. Well, not on those points at least.

Elizabeth Rhodes

Looking over my current draft of Jasper, I suppose my worst habit would be writing too little in previous versions.  The better part of my revision process has been in creating new scenes to flesh out the story.  I’m not sure if this habit is my reluctance to tackle scenes I may find difficult, or if I’m just eager to move on to the next event.  Either way, I’m learning that it’s best for me to include these scenes from the start.

Caren Rich

We don’t have time to go through all of my bad habits. Writing realistic dialogue is my biggest issue.  Writing dialogue and proper grammar are not the same thing.  I have my high school English teacher sitting on my shoulder telling me, that is not grammatically correct and ‘hey’ is not a word.  I think there is a fine line for writer’s to write realistic dialogue and using good grammar.  At times, that can be difficult.  I spend more time editing minor things like, adding contractions, than going back and replotting.  Good dialogue is hard.  It must be practiced.  So if you see me in a restaurant, with my head tilted and a lost look in my eyes…walk away.  I’m eavesdropping on the group behind me.  Listening to the way they speak.  Conversation is like a wave.  It has a beginning and an end, but between the two it’s filled with ebbs and flow. We all do it (conversation) but we all do it differently.  Regional dialogue (what I use) is even more chaotic.  Walk down any mall or school and you will hear at least half a dozen different accents.  They may have all grown up within spitting distance, but they use language in a different way.  As a writer, mastering dialogue is the hardest thing (for me).  Don’t even get me started on the use of humor in writing.  We don’t have time or space for that!

Jean Davis

Not writing enough description. My rough drafts are very dialogue heavy. I love dialogue and action because of the tension and pacing but description is more difficult for me. Not that it’s hard, it’s just not something I get excited about. I tend to be pretty bare bones in that department even in my finished and published works.

D. T. Nova

When I was 12 or 13, I started writing a story, or series of stories, and didn’t get very far in the actual plot because it was too bogged down with explaining what happened before the story really started. Also, it kind of sucked, and when I say that I mean it sucked compared to other things I wrote as a kid; it certainly wasn’t the story that my teacher complimented.

Okay, I don’t want to drag that self-demonstrating answer out too much; the mistake that I keep repeating is including too much backstory too soon.

Amy Morris-Jones

I am sure I have quite a few bad habits—beginning with procrastination—but the one that annoys me most is my reliance on adverbs, even though I know they reflect weak writing. I’ve gotten to the point where I just let myself write awful first drafts full of those pesky adverbs and worry about them after the first draft.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Adverbs, or as many professional writers would refer to it: “telling instead of showing”. I’m horrible for this, particularly in my first drafts. It was the one thing that I really had to look out for when I was editing “Nowhere to Hide”. The thing is, I do take pride in trying to “show” instead of “tell”, but I also don’t agree with the overwhelming majority of writers that adverbs are the worst writing mistake in the world. I believe that adverbs have their place, and that it’s a little silly to try and abolish and entire set of words from the English language just because their use might be a little bit lazier. I’ve read lots of books that are positively littered with adverbs, and it honestly didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story.

Paul B. Spence

I have this tendency to write complex, multi-story-arc, 500-plus-page novels. I’ve been told that today’s readers just don’t want that sort of thing. I don’t see myself breaking the habit any time soon.

H. Anthe Davis

I’m really annoyed at my current habit of trying to end chapters with ‘zingers’ — you know, mini-cliffhangers or other quick summations of threat/worry that are meant to push the reader forward.  I don’t feel like I do them well, and beside that, they can feel artificial.  Some of my breakout lines feel like that too — single sentences between heftier paragraphs meant for impact or to give a feeling of suddenness or insight.  (I’m sure there are actual terms for these things but I’m just making my own here.)  I’m trying to get better/more adept at it, but it can feel manipulative.

S. R. Carrillo

Sometimes, while I’m writing, I’ll find a really good phrase or way to word something, and it’ll pop up all over every project I’m working on at the time (I usually work on at least two at a time, with each MS in a different stage of its publication process). It drives me crazy because it’s just like more work to do during the editing process. But I love editing, so it’s okay. :]

Linda G. Hill

Hope you’re enjoying yourself, Linda!

Jay Dee Archer

I make a lot of mistakes.  It seems grammar and spelling are my strong points, but that doesn’t make the draft very good.  I can echo others above me on this post saying that I don’t write enough, meaning I use too much dialogue, not enough action.  However, I do have another problem which I feel is a big one.  I’m too wordy in sentences.  They come across as cumbersome and slow to read.  I find that I often have to cut words out to make it sound better and crisper.

How about you?

What do you think is your bad habit or frequent writing mistake?  It doesn’t matter if you don’t write books, it can also apply to blog posts.  Share your problems in the comments below.

No! Don’t do that, you idiot!

Sometimes I find that I’m completely baffled by some characters’ behaviour.  It goes against common sense.  And sometimes, they make mistakes that are so obviously idiotic that you can’t help but shout at the book or e-reader, “No! Don’t do that, you idiot!”

facepalm

The vast majority of the time, this happens while I’m reading an indie book.  Sure, I’ve read some good ones, but many of them have this problem.  This usually happens when the protagonist has an unnatural naivete that prevents them from thinking in a rational manner, and I wonder how they’ve survived up to this point in their life.

A lot of these cases have to do with temptation. They’re told not to do something, but they do it anyway, even though they know that the consequences will be disastrous.  They think, “Oh, what harm could it do?”  As soon as they do it, they immediately regret it.  But do they learn?  Usually, no.  They continue to do ridiculously stupid things.  I often want those characters to die so I can stop face-palming while I read.  Let the others do it.  They’re far more competent.  But of course, that inept, naive, idiotic character is the only hope that the world has for survival.  Let’s see some examples.

It’s okay, we won’t fall

Our hero has come to the edge of a very unstable precipice, and his friend is reluctant to look over the edge.  This is what happens:

“Why don’t you take a look down the cliff?” asked the stupid friend.

“I’m not sure about that.  It looks pretty dangerous,” said the stupid hero.

The stupid friend took a step to the edge.  The ground below him crumbled and he dropped down, grabbing a tree root.  “Help me!”

Our hero grabbed his hand, and the ledge continued to crumble.  “I don’t know if I can hold on.”

“Pull me up!” said the friend.  He held on tight.  However, the ground crumbled and they fell down the cliff, suffering life-threatening injuries.

Don’t open it

“This box contains a powerful sword, but don’t open it and don’t use the sword.  It holds an evil spirit that will destroy you,” said the wizard.

“I promise I won’t,” said the stupid hero.

The wizard walked away.  The hero looked at the box and heard a voice coming from it, “Open the box, and this sword will give you great powers.”

“I don’t know.  The wizard said not to open it,” said the hero.

“He doesn’t know anything.  He’s hiding something from you.  This sword will make you so powerful, you will never lose.  Trust me,” said the evil sounding voice.

“Ok, I’ll just take a look.” He opened the box and the evil spirit flew away and into the hero’s best friend, who then killed the wizard and everyone he loved.

Don’t push that button

The hero looked at the spaceship’s control panel.  So many buttons.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said.  “I’ll just push everything.”

He pushed everything, including a big red button that said Self-Destruct Button, Do Not Push.  Boom.  But miraculously, the stupid hero survived while all of his friends died.

Conclusion

Don’t be an idiot.  Think first, you moronic characters.  Or should I say this: authors, please write more believable characters and avoid this scenario.  It’s really not that enjoyable.  So please, don’t do it!

Learning English? Remember this!

As an English teacher in Japan, I’ve heard many mistakes by students studying English.  The mistakes vary from the simplest, most mundane to the hilarious.  Japanese grammar is the opposite of English grammar.  It’s actually similar to the way Yoda speaks, leaving the verb at the end of the sentence.  So, it can be a challenge to adjust to a completely different set of grammar rules.

I understand that English can be a challenge to native English speakers, as well.  I’ve heard many people in Canada who don’t seem to have a very good grasp of their first language, and with the popularity of the Internet and text messaging on cell phones, there’s been a reduction in linguistic ability lately.  Native speakers have trouble with “there,” “their,” and “they’re.”  Also, “to” and “too” give people difficulties.  And then there are those who use “could of” instead of “could have.”  But I want to talk about some of the common mistakes that Japanese speakers have while learning English.

Articles

The most insidious class of words in the English language are the articles.  Japanese people usually don’t know how to use “a/an” or “the.” My usual advice is when introducing something, use “a.” When you mention it again, as a main topic, use “the.”  That may be a very simple way to think about it, but it often does work.  But these are very simple words, and they don’t result in misunderstandings, usually.  Although misusing them can have some unintended results.  What could possibly happen?  This is what I’ve heard.

“I ate a chicken for dinner.”

“You ate a whole chicken?”

So, be careful, English learners, you may unintentionally eat an entire animal for dinner!

Most/almost

This pair of words confuses so many students, it seems almost everyone gets it wrong.  When they want to use “most,” they almost always use “almost.”  For example,

“Almost Japanese eat rice everyday.”

“Who?  Are you telling me that people who are trying to be completely Japanese, but not quite making it, eat rice everyday?  What about full Japanese people?  Do they eat rice everyday?”

“????”

“At least these not quite 100% Japanese people like rice.”

When dealing with numbers of people and things, and it’s not quite 100%, please use “most.” If you want to talk about something that is not quite finished, or it’s not quite at a certain time, use “almost.”

Naive/Sensitive

Japanese people confuse these words, as well.  They don’t seem to realise that “naive” doesn’t mean sensitive.  Once it’s explained to them that “naive” has a more negative meaning, similar to being stupid due to lack of experience or ignorance, they get that they’re using it wrong.

Mansion

“I live in a mansion.”

“Wow!  You must be rich!”

“No, it’s very small.  Only a 2 room mansion.”

The Japanese use the word “mansion” when they’re talking about a modern concrete and steel apartment building.  It does not mean they are rich or live in a large house.  The English “mansion” is a large house, of course.

Embarrassed/ashamed

“I saw so many girls in swimsuits at the beach.  I’m so ashamed.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to explain that these two words have different meanings, yet they both translate as “hazukashii” in Japanese.  The connotations are totally different.  “Ashamed” is much more negative, as if they have made a big mistake that they feel sorry for. The results may have unintended consequences for others.  “Embarrassed” is nothing to be so worried about, as it’s just an uncomfortable situation.  Other people are not affected.

Too/very

Japanese people often use “too” when they really should be using “very.”

“That game was too fun!”

“It should be less fun then?”

“No, I enjoyed it too much!”

“Well, maybe we’ll make it more boring next time.”

“No, I don’t want it to be boring.  I want it too fun!”

I could keep going and going.  My point is, “too” should only be used if the following adjective (or adverb) is affecting you negatively.  Otherwise, if you just want it to be strong, use “very.”

Adjectives ending with -ed and -ing

Once again, students, ending an adjective with -ed describes your feeling.  Ending it with -ing describes things.  Take “boring” and “bored” for example.

“I am so boring.”

“I’m sorry to hear that you think you’re boring.  Why don’t you try to be a more interesting person?”

“No, there’s nothing to do.  I’m so boring!”

They don’t seem to realise that they’re insulting themselves.

“That game is bored.”

“Then give it a new player if you think you make it bored.”

See/watch/look at

“I watched an amazing painting yesterday.”

“That sounds boring.  Paintings don’t do anything.”

“????”

All three of these words have the same word in Japanese.  It is difficult to distinguish them for a Japanese speaker, unless they learn how to use them properly.  “See” is quite general, you don’t really concentrate on anything specific.  “Watch” is used when you concentrate on something that moves or changes over time. You’re observing its behaviour. “Look at” is similar, but you’re concentrating on the appearance of that object.

It’s similar for “listen” and “hear,” which use the same word in Japanese. “Listen” is when you concentrate on the sound, while “hear” is general, and you don’t pay attention.

Blue/green

Japanese has different words for “blue” and “green,” but there is a case when “blue” is used for something that is actually “green.”

“When the light turns blue, then you can go.”

“Okay, now it’s green.  When will it turn blue?”

“Now!  It’s blue!”

“No, it’s green.”

Yeah, traffic lights are apparently blue in Japan.  Last I checked, they appeared green to me.

Black eyes

“Can you describe him to me?”

“He has black hair and black eyes.”

“What?! He got into a fight?!”

“A fight?  No, he didn’t.”

When you ask a Japanese person what colour their eyes are, they will likely answer “black.”  Of course, if you look at their eyes, they’re really dark brown.  But many Japanese people say they have black eyes.  It should be brown or dark eyes, not black.  It’s only black if you have a bruise around your eye.

Winnie the Pooh

“What’s your favourite character?”

“I like poo!”

“What??”

Japanese people tend to refer to Winnie the Pooh as “Pooh.”  I don’t think they should say that to an English speaker.  It’s a totally different and unintended meaning!  Unless they mean Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo, of course.

Local

“What kind of place is your hometown?”

“It’s very local.”

“Oh, really?  How long does it take to get there from here?”

“6 hours by car.”

“?????”

Japanese people seem to think that “local” means a small or countryside location.  It really means that it’s nearby.  I have to explain this to so many people, including high level students.

Curly hair

“What does your friend look like?”

“She has a long afro.”

“That’s an odd hairstyle for a Japanese woman.”

I hope that they will understand that an afro is very tight curls that you find in African hair. Curly hair does not mean afro!  I’ve heard of loose curls being referred to as an afro in Japan.

Handle

“When you’re ready to go left, turn the handle.”

“You want me to open the car door while driving?”

“What?  No!”

This is quite simple.  In Japan, the steering wheel is called the handle.

Six

I will finish off with this big mistake.  This always happens with kids classes, when they’re learning to spell and do phonics.  In one lesson, they have to spell the word “six” based on the CD.  Half of the time, they write “sex.”  And I’m pretty sure most of them know what it means, because they snicker when I ask them about it.

Well, that is all for now.  If you’re a native English speaker, I hope you enjoyed this.  If you’re Japanese and learning English, I hope you learned something new.