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Manuscript page from James Joyce's Ulysses Photograph: PA

Mistakes!  Who likes them? Do we need them to become better at what we do? I'd venture to say Theodore Roosevelt would answer yes, judging from this quote:

"The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything."
                                                           -Theodore Roosevelt

I've been going in circles about mistakes with my novel writing. As a process-orientated painter I celebrate 'happy accidents'. I wondered, could they serve the same function in my writing?

The editor in me thinks not. The artist disagrees with the editor. We go 'round and 'round.

The issue though is when you try to write in nonstandard English things quickly go haywire. Grammar Check thinks every line contains a mistake. Editors, if not clued in, demolish the draft.

I lived through such a nightmare recently. I'd listened carefully to my character and heard her soft patois coming through. I wrote out what she said as I heard it. Then, I did my editing and sent it to my editor. I loved the formatting she added, and tense corrections. The grammar corrections because of the dialect I was trying to convey, were a complete nightmare.

Editor: Mistakes!

Author: Mistakes?

No darling. It's called dialect.

I know I'm partially guilty about a break in communications. Whether I like it or not exclamation points of the conceptual type must be made - call them being direct, emphatic or whatever. Still, I almost wanted to pull out my already short hair, when I saw the new state of my revised manuscript.

Over the last few days I've been busy making corrections of my own. Editor-free, I'm working hard at letting what seemed to be 'Mistakes!' stand.


Mistakes are in the eye of the beholder.

Notes on my Theme:
This post is written for the 2015 A to Z Challenge. During this challenge, participating bloggers post once a day, in alphabetical order. This is done 6 days per week. Sundays are off. My theme presents words that are exciting. These words serve as thematic motifs in my writing. My theme also revolves around exclamation points. The words I've chosen to explore can replace or stand alone from the dreaded exclamation point, which writers are urged to avoid.


  1. One of my biggest peeves is editors who correct dialog (apart from obvious, real mistakes). That's how I want the character to sound! And also, most people don't speak grammatically correct. I've had fights with my editor over it too!

    1. Megan, I've never felt it as keenly as now. Glad to hear I'm not alone.

  2. I could do without mistakes. Would be nice to get it right the first time, but then, how else are we supposed to grow? :)

  3. Do you mean like this sentence in Anzia Yezierska's classic The Bread Givers: "It ain't my fault if the shops are closed. If I take my lunch money for something pretty that I got to have, it don't hurt you none."

    Or pick just about any page from "To Kill a Mockingbird." Start with something simple like 'What you reckon we oughta do, Jem?" Where's the book without the dialect? The dialect is fundamental to creating the characters, differentiating Atticus from just about everybody else (other than Judge Taylor), the young Jem from the mature Jem, and on and on.

    Or this line in Bel Kaufman's classic Up the Down Staircase: [student, to Miss Barrett, the teacher] "I've just seen your type before, that's all. There's one every year. "Not living up to your potential," they say. Is that what you were going to say, teach? "Just wanna help you, Joe?" "Just wanna be your friend?" Then they get to feeling very sorry for your about your "environmental factors", and your "low socio-economic level". Till you've just have to tell 'em; "Get your nose outta my environmental factors, will ya? Keep your damn hands off my potential"... and then they turn you in."

    Bel Kaufman has an absolutely brilliant and hysterical introduction in Up the Down Staircase in which she describes her negotiations with the editors over her book. I think it's a must read for all writers.

    1. Thanks for these literary references. It reminds me, I must re-read "To Kill a Mockingbird" ASAP. Great quotes from all sources. Thanks!

  4. I make mistakes all the time in my writing. Usually I catch them. If I don't my betas do. If they don't, my editor definitely will. Thank goodness for betas and editors!

    1. Yes we do catch a lot of errors. It's good we are always our own first readers.

  5. haha! I can relate to this beautifully and flawless written post.

  6. a writer and an artist- a heavenly blend, once the nightmare is over?

    zannierose A-Z visitor

  7. Dialect shouldn't be called a mistake! Editing is a frustrating job. For both sides I think.

  8. I have done some proofing for people and it is somewhat difficult, sometimes, to discern what is meant to be dialect and what is a grammatical error. I try very hard to discern the difference, but I guess I make mistakes.

    1. It is very complex. You're right. Good communication on both sides is very important.

  9. Sounds like you've been having quite the entertaining time, going back and forth with your editor. Good luck with sorting it all out and ending up with a book that makes you both proud!

  10. I love mistakes in glass working as they've been how I've discovered to do something different, atlhough I will get around to correcting wonky shapes as that's less helpful!

    As you can see I adore the ! - great theme, I like ! but then again I don't write for a living, just for fun!

    Mars xx
    Curling Stones for Lego People

    1. I'm glad you're enjoying this Mars. I love your theme and your blog as well. Glad we found each other through A to Z.

  11. Lovely post Stephanie thank you! Mis-take I'm thinking when the editor gets too fancy and correct to the point of ridiculousness. 'Jane' above makes this point very clearly. Stop mussing with your hair already and just mull for a while.

    1. Good thought. I'm working on it Susan.

  12. Such word motivate me so much... :) thank god i make so many mistakes.. i am learning to take care that rather than being sad and depressed, it should keep me going... :)


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