Dealing with Mistakes

- by ria, on Wednesday, 1st December 2010, 8:05pm

Everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes every other sentence when I’m typing. It’s big no big deal. I hit backspace and continue on. I don’t even think of it as a mistake, really.

Mistakes in writing are a somewhat more subtle creature. If I make a mistake in the plot of chapter 1, I may not realise it was a mistake until chapter 10. By then it is a big deal to correct it. Some mistakes slip by unnoticed. I don’t notice the mistake until well into editing and I’m staring at this one scene wondering why I can’t get it to shape up properly.

I can be pretty slow to realise that I made a mistake. No one wants to admit that they are flawed. Since writing is a part of me, I find it had to see when I’ve made a mistake, or when something isn’t working. But I’ve figured out a marker or waypost that can help me find and deal with mistakes.

Spotting the Elusive Mistake

I find it very hard to spot mistakes in plot /character /¬†conflict¬†while I am in the middle of a draft. Editing is usually when I start to notice them. Spotting mistakes starts with a small feeling of something not being quite right. I’ve been over this scene 3 or 4 times and it’s still not working. Now, it usually takes my brain a few days to realise why this scene isn’t working out. It was a mistake, things should never have gone this way.

If you find yourself stuck or don’t know what to do next, maybe you need to ask yourself if your story is sound. You need to check for mistakes back down the plot, or maybe the mistake is in the scene you are on at the moment. Finding the mistake is the hard part. Forcing yourself to admit that something is wrong is not easy, but you’ll feel more in control of your writing and less frustrated at whatever scene isn’t working once you do.

Erase that mistake

So, you know something’s wrong. What to do now? When I make a mistake typing I don’t even think about deleting it and typing it right. It should be the exact same with writing. Delete it. Don’t think about the time you spent writing it in the first place. Accept that it is flawed and cut it out. That’s the hard part.

Now all you have to do is go again, with something that actually works. For me, this part usually goes very smoothly. I know what’s wrong and I know what I have to do to fix it. I usually spend a lot more time agonising over the mistake than I do rewriting it.

The next time you get stuck and have no idea why, think of this post. I hope it helps.

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category: writing

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