Take the Sting Out of Writing Errors

by AK Nevermore
published in Writing

You’ve pulled your hair out. Bled on the page. Gone over your WIP six ways til Sunday. Maybe you’ve even put it through one of those AI editing programs or had someone read it. One last comb through for typos or other writing errors. Yeah. That’s it. Time to submit.

You hit send, and then can’t resist the temptation to take one more—


Ok, maybe a totally different four letter word just echoed through the room, but say it ain’t so! Right there, staring at you in black and white, is a blaring frickin’ error.

A word repeated twice in the same paragraph. The wrong to, their, or your. Punctuation gone horribly awry. You used a different agent’s name in your query letter, or spelled your comp title wrong. 

Long story short, you screwed up. Makes you cringe just thinking about it, doesn’t it? And I can guarantee every single person reading this has got not so fond memories of one, if not more, of those examples. 

Me? Oh, I’m guilty of every single one of those writing errors on more than one occasion. 

Which is why I’m here to tell you that none of them are the end of the world, and are only as bad as you make them out to be. 

Here’s some things to think about that will take the sting out of writing errors.

Sin #1: Repeat Words

Ugh I get it, and was just guilty of this in a recent Writer Fuel, which inspired this article. Check it out: 

“Not like pig in a tutu weird, but a little lipstick isn’t outside the realm of possibilities. I’d introduce myself, but I’m gonna bet you’ve already figured out that it’s not Gabriela or Lori typing this up.”

Yup, I double loaded on the buts and seriously winced when I read it. Especially since the sentence structure was so similar. 

BUT, you know what? Most readers read for enjoyment. Unless it’s super egregious, most people will cut you some slack over your writing errors. 

Overall, that article got some great feedback, and the only person looking at buts was me.


Which leads me to Sin #2.

Sin #2: The Wrong Word

This one is a straight up groan, and though AI programs are pretty good, not even a computer will catch all of these all the time. And yeah, sure, there are the usual suspects I mentioned above, but what about the sneaky ones like compliment (a polite expression of praise or admiration) vs. complement (a thing that completes or brings to perfection)?

Why yes, that is a super specific example. I wonder how I could have chosen it…

Look, unless you’re swimming in the Mensa side of the gene pool, you can’t expect yourself to know every single in and out of the English language, or any other language for that matter. 

That’s what editors are for, and even they miss stuff, which is why the publishing process goes through so many rounds of revisions.

And I’m gonna bet you’ve picked up a traditionally published book at some point in your life and there’s been an error that snuck through. Speaking of which, let’s check out Sin #3

Sin #3: Punctuation Gone Horribly Awry

Commas, I’m looking at you. True story, the last time I had a full-length manuscript professionally copyedited, it came back with over two-thousand corrected commas. To add insult to injury, I had run it through one of those AI programs before I sent it off.

If a computer is fallible when following specifically programmed algorithms, how can you expect yourself to be perfect every time? 

I mean, I get it. Those stupid little sickles of doom have given me a complex, and quite frankly, I’m so terrified of semicolons I won’t even use them. 

See the above editors / publishers comment and give yourself some grace.

Sin #4: Wrong Names and Misspelling

Using the wrong name on a query letter. Seriously, come on! You’ve researched the living daylights out of this person, agonized over toeing the line between informed and stalker-ish, the tears you’ve shed trying to distill your book into a frickin’ paragraph—

And instead of addressing it to Jack, you spelt it Jac, or called him Karen. 

For the record, at this point, it is entirely acceptable to curl up into a fetal ball of misery. Oh yeah, been there done that. Twice, actually. Repeating the experience doesn’t make it any easier in case you were wondering. And that also goes for misspelling a comp title or author name. 

So how do you deal with it? Well, at some point, you just have to laugh at yourself, and you know what? Agents are people, too. They have good days and bad, and they can tell a carefully crafted query with an oops from some schmuck just whipping out form letters.

In cases like this, you have to trust that the rest of your query will shine. And if the agent isn’t able or willing to look beyond that one flub, I’m gonna bet they’re not someone you want to tie your career to. 

Trust me, especially with the misspelled name thing. I’m kind of an expert with that. I mean what kind of a sadistic parent would saddle their kid with Alysen?

Um, this girl’s.

So, as someone whose family members can’t even spell her name correctly, it really isn’t that big of a deal. People who freak out about it generally have a chip on their shoulder and are best avoided.

Sin #5: Something You Wrote Rubbed Someone the Wrong Way

Are you laughing? I’m laughing. Because um, yeah, I’ve been here too. On numerous occasions and sometimes purposefully. Like, I have Lori scan all of my copy just to make sure I’m not saying something that’s too over the top. 

Look, almost none of us want to be hurtful or upset other people, but it’s inevitable that you’re going to unintentionally put your foot in it with someone at some point. 

And I will be the first to admit that my writing style and voice can sometimes be shocking.

But I like pushing my readers to look at the not so pretty and safe side of things. I write gritty books with edgy characters, and though my editorial prose is much lighter, there’s some bite to the self-deprecation. 

It’s not going to be for everyone, and neither is your work. That’s ok.

For me, writing is about eliciting emotion and making my readers feel something. A lot of the time, I want them to feel like they’re not so alone on this journey, and that they’re definitely not the only one making mistakes. Other times, I want them to question a preconceived notion. And I’ll admit it, sometimes I just want the shock value and a burst of startled laughter. 

That’s not without risks, and I’ve absolutely had people unsubscribe from my mailing list. But again, that’s ok. Not everyone liked you in high school and it doesn’t happen in real life either.

If you didn’t learn your lesson then, I’m here to tell you now: if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one, least of all yourself.

And at the end of the day?

Institute a ritual, and celebrate your writing errors. 

Order nachos, break out the fancy bourbon, and text your BFF about what a bonehead you are. 

Promise yourself you’ll never do that again, knowing full well it isn’t a promise you’ll be able to keep.

You’ll be in good company. I, and every other writer, will be bumbling along right beside you, muttering the immortal words of Homer Simpson: “D’oh!”

AK Nevermore's headshot

AK Nevermore writes science fiction and urban fantasy with spice. She enjoys operating heavy machinery, freebases coffee, and gives up sarcasm for Lent every year. Unable to ignore the voices in her head, and unwilling to become medicated, she writes about dark worlds, perversely irreverent and profound, and always entertaining.

You can find her on her website or follow her on her sadly neglected Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds.

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