How to Be a Crap Writer (Part 2)

In my previous post on the topic of being a crap writer, I looked at ways of identifying those among us who are not literary greats, and how those writers might justify churning out dross. This time, I’m interested in the kinds of basic errors many people seem to make between the title and the first page.

Now, rather than embarrassing anyone by holding up a giant pointy finger and including actual examples from the poor fools who cultivate such boo-boos, I’ll illustrate my points with instances from my own works, modified to show the kinds of blunders I’m talking about.

[NB If you can’t spot the mistakes, maybe you’re one of those poor fools!]

Title Errors
You’d think any author would be able to get the title of their book right, especially as it’s the phrase they most likely see at the top of the page every time they open the file to work on the damn thing!

Missing Letters

  • The House Tat Wasn’t There
  • The Hounds of Hellerby all

Missing or Misplaced Apostrophes

  • The House That Wasnt There
  • The Hound’s of Hellerby Hall

Wrong Words

  • The House That Wasn’t Their
  • The Hose That Wasn’t There

Missing spaces

  • Chapter1
  • The WatsonLetters
  • Writing:Ideas and Inspirations

Lack of consistency can be distracting for readers, from interchanging basic titles (Mr/Mister), to using the wrong tense. Also, using the right version of a word particularly applies to made up names and places, as well as common place names. Accents and dialects, where the correct spelling may be uncertain, can also tie you in knots. In my ‘Maps of Time’ series, several characters speak in a version of London cockney:

  • “There’s somefing you ain’t tellin me, girlie.”

In an early daft, I discovered I was spelling ‘something’ as somefing, somfing and somfin. Doh.

Keeping your finger off the spell-checker can be just as difficult – in the world of my Watson Letters series (being set in an almost post-Victorian parallel universe) I spell England’s capital city as Londen. Naturally my own spell checker picks this up as an error, so I have to take especial care not to correct it.

This is where an apparently stray word has been dropped in the middle of a sentence, either through overconfidence in a spell checker, poor editing or just being a bit of a divvy:

  • “Christie, you surly hasn’t sold pork Mr Morrison a hag-written story?”
    (“Christie, you surely haven’t sold poor Mr Morrison a half-written story?”)
  • I began to list some as pets of the crimes reported via our fried Estrada.
    (I began to list some aspects of the crimes reported via our friend Lestrade.)

Bad Writing
And finally, some authors just need to write better – poor sentence structure, repeated words, ill-placed commas etc:

  • The murderer’s bodies Lestrade thought had incisions, made in them that made it look like a crazed doctor could, have maybe been responsible he thought for the murders of the victims.
  • (Several incisions had been made to the bodies of all the victims, leading Lestrade to believe the murders may have been committed by a crazed doctor.)

This may seem like an extreme example, but it’s nothing like as bad as some of the utter drivel that’s out there.

However perfect we think our work is, it’s always worth taking another look before touching that big Publish button – I find I’ll often notice glitches and inaccuracies in my writing just before that crucial point, and while most of these aren’t blatant blunders, they’re things I should have corrected earlier. Being a good writer means paying attention to the small things, and as Sergeant Phil Esterhaus didn’t used to say:

“Hey, hey, hey – let’s be careful with that detail out there!”

  9 comments for “How to Be a Crap Writer (Part 2)

  1. 18/12/2019 at 5:48 PM

    Great post Colin.
    You could add Londen to your MS Word dictionary. This feature comes in handy for Fantasy and Sci-Fi as we usually have many strange words and names. However, you chose a dangerous one, because the proper spelling of “London” would not get flagged.
    After you think you’re done and ready to publish, your manuscript should be read out loud in a slow and deliberate manner, preferably by another person while you silently read along.


    • 18/12/2019 at 7:04 PM

      Thanks Ernesto – good points. I do use the ‘Read Aloud’ feature on Word, which can highlight issues, but it’s not the same as hearing someone else read your work.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 02/07/2016 at 1:14 PM

    Very interesting. “Fried Estrada” might be nonsense, but it’s very interesting nonsense. That one made me smile. Those title examples are just awful. I agree that it’s worth taking another look before publishing. I designed the cover for my first book (currently out of print,) and I discovered after publication that I had a typographical error in my bio where I listed my alma mater, an extra letter. Ugh. Sometimes, I would just point it out and make light of it.


    • 02/07/2016 at 3:54 PM

      Yes, it’s easy done. Making light of it is a great idea, but you still feel a bit stupid when you notice things like that.


  3. 30/06/2016 at 5:11 PM

    In my experience, crap writing has a lot more to do with poor characters, lack of story structure, and lack of conflict than it does with typos. If an author can give a reader a good story, most readers will forgive an awful lot of the kinds of technical flaws that you’ve highlighted.

    Not that one shouldn’t strive to eliminate such errors …

    Liked by 1 person

    • 30/06/2016 at 6:00 PM

      True, but with writers who can’t get the basics right, I’m not even going to get as far as crap plot, crap structure etc. If they can hold my attention past the title, the first page and maybe the first chapter, I’ll usually continue reading. And books with great plots tend not to be full of typos. 😉


  4. 30/06/2016 at 12:37 PM

    Excellent advice, It is the little things that can make a huge glaring mistake obvious.

    Liked by 1 person

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