Common Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

Common Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

A Lesson by The Perfectionist

A list of the most common and damning mistakes I find and how you can stop yourself from making them.


One of the sole redeeming things about a poem or story that is absolutely, positively awful is that you can learn from it. Specifically, you can learn how NOT to do it the next time. A lot of people don't learn, though, and just keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

I've written a hell of a lot of reviews by now, and I'm starting to notice a few trends in things I like to complain about. Please note before reading that these are complaints mostly about STORIES, so some of them will not be applicable to those of you who prefer poetry.

1. Switching Tenses
This, as I've said many times, is the cardinal sin of writing. There is no excuse to EVER do this in narration. I don't care whether you write in past, present, or even future tense, but pick one and stick with it the whole way through.

Sadly, it's one of the hardest ones to catch, you really have to make sure you read your work carefully before posting it.

2. Poor Spelling and Grammar
I'm a Grammar Nazi and proud of it, but once you cross over from stuff people like me notice (like using its instead of it's) to things that everyone notices (interchanging their and there and they're), then you've really got a problem.

The solution to this? Easy. PASTE IT IN WORD BEFORE YOU POST IT. Spell-checkers are literally EVERYWHERE. Any good writing software has one, freaking FIREFOX has one built in. There is NO excuse for mistakes that a checker would catch. Other than that, pay attention in English or get a Grammar Nazi friend to review it.

3. Lack of Pacing
This is a bigger problem than I thought it would be. Maybe it's because Twilight is still popular and this site is full of impressionable young women, but whatever the reason, an inability to pace a story is a prevalent cancer on WC. (In case you missed my point there, I'm talking about the fact that Stephenie Meyer has no idea how to pace either. Yes, I've read Twilight so I know. Shut up)

To have pacing in a story (or even a poem) means having the story logically progress from beginning to middle to end, and letting each part actually get finished before you move on to the next one. Stories without pacing feel rushed, the characters are often underdeveloped, and it just doesn't really work.

Compare your story to a baby in the womb. Babies take nine months, give or take, to pop out the way they are supposed to. Ever seen a baby born premature? It's tiny and disfigured (and babies are ugly to begin with) and it doesn't have great odds of survival. You need to let all the internal organs develop; you can't just throw skin over the whole thing and call it a day.

To avoid this one, just take your time. Don't feel pressured to finish something; if you need to, take a break. Ask yourself continually whether you are moving too fast with the story because you are in a hurry to get somewhere. You can't rush art, and make no mistake, a good story can be a work of art.

Oh and don't make everything into one giant paragraph either. Spacing is good.

4. Unrealistic
Some of you may say 'well a story about wizards or vampires or werewolves isn't realistic and it's still good'. To you people, I ask you to hold still so I may beat you with a dictionary. Unrealistic in this sense doesn't mean that every story has to be something that's feasible in the real world. Unrealistic means it has to be feasible in the world you create.

I'll give you an example. In the Harry Potter books, it's referenced many times that wizards have not figured out how to fly without the aid of a broomstick. Yet, at the end of the series, Voldemort (the main bad guy for those of you that have been living under rocks) is seen in flight. Why? Because he's the most powerful f*****g wizard alive. Rowling breaks her own rule to show that he is awesome and just plain better than everyone else (and that his power came with severe consequences), and it WORKS. Why does it work? Because we can BELIEVE that the guy who is more powerful than everyone else, and experiments with magic most people don't touch, could pull off something no one else can do.

Now let's compare this to Twilight. There are issues all over this book, but there is one in particular that sets off red flags on this topic. At the beginning of the book, Meyer makes a point of talking about how Bella is average, bland, and ordinary in every way. Ten pages later, Bella's at her new school and there are boys tripping over themselves to be around her. Meyer gave us every reason to believe the exact opposite should happen (Edward's odd connection to her notwithstanding), so it doesn't work.

In fairness, my girlfriend (who was born in a small town, whereas I am a city boy and have been all my life) informs me that this sort of thing IS a little more realistic in hick towns, because she's just someone new, but even she says Meyer goes too far.

Just remember, it's okay if you make your own world and your own rules, but you have to remember that once you make them, you can't just break them and expect me not to cry foul.

And that's the big ones. Just by the way, in case you're curious as to what inspired this, the answer is here:

This story broke all of my rules, as I listed in my review of it. It's not the worst thing I've ever read, but it was staggering just how much went wrong.

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Posted 13 Years Ago

Knowing the difference between "its" and "it's" makes someone a Grammar Nazi? I had no idea... :)

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Posted 14 Years Ago

Another article that I agree with completely. I'm a bit of a spelling and grammar nazi myself (although mostly spelling in my case). I truly hate reading stories where people have misspelt some of the most obvious words and clearly haven't checked their work thoroughly enough (or are just plain stupid). I'm not saying that I don't make the odd mistake in my spelling and grammar and I'm not saying that I don't let a mistake slip through the net every now and then, but it's only ever one or two mistakes and they normally aren't particularly obvious either.

But yes, you've covered some pretty good points there. This has been a great course so far, and it's a rather amusing one too ^^

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Posted 14 Years Ago

This is another great article - and hopefully even people who don't read will read it, seeing as how you mentioned Twilight [POW...and I haven't read any of them in full, merely extracts, so technically am not entitled but f**k it].
The 'your work is your baby' analogy could have easily been cliched...but your cynical humour made it very entertaining:
"you can't just throw skin over the whole thing and call it a day."

I'm glad that someone else is also out there advising people to paste into Word/something with a spell checker before posting their writing on here. I think a major factor in all the grammar mistakes is that people type straight into the box on WC...but even then, why don't they have a read through once they've done that? Yeah, anyway, spell checkers won't catch everything (e.g. 'there' for 'their' as mentioned above) but at least some of the mistakes would be filtered out.

Overall, lots of good points made and explained in an enjoyable manner. Good course so far - I only sauntered over here in the first place to see what the hell 'Courses' entailed - you've sucked me in(!)
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Added on April 6, 2010
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The Perfectionist
The Perfectionist


Send me Poetry RRs at your own risk. They will be read but they will not be reviewed unless I actually have something to say. All stories, no matter how terrible or boring, will be reviewed. Review..