What to Do When You Make a Mistake – Part II.

Hello out there in the blogosphere. It’s me, Ollie, James’ Old English Sheepdog. James has been working away this morning, having gotten up super early. He wanted to get some editing done before we went for our walk. Why would James want to edit, you ask? Well, and this is not meant as a poor reflection on my loving companion, but he does make mistakes. (Looks like a post without any treats – darn!)

If you remember my prior post about mistakes we make in life, both dogs and humans, then you will find this post about the mistakes we make as writers. And, yes, I include myself in this group even though James does the typing for me. I’m still capable of making mistakes. (Double darn, I had hoped that would mean a treat. Oh, well.)

What types of mistakes and how do we fix them? Well, if I may begin at the beginning, which I’ve been told is a very good place to start, it commences when we first sit down to write. James uses the outline form for our and his writings. From there we begin to build out our first draft.

Having begun with an outline, the first mistake we usually make is trying too hard to stick to it. We (I’m being kind here by using the proverbial “we” since I need him to use his hands to type because my paws are too big for the keyboard.) then end up with a first draft that usually lacks pizzazz. It’s all facts and telling instead of being forceful and showing. The story, poem or blog sort of lies there on the page like I so often do around the house.

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(Ollie lying around the house after a recent grooming.)


The “fix” for this is by showing instead of telling and allowing the creative tangents that crop up get fleshed out as some may provide the missing key to a successful story. Let your inner Panster come out to play. It’s only the first draft. Have some fun.

Another mistake James will make while speed typing out that first draft is spelling and grammatical errors. These are easy for James to overlook during the initial part of his writing. It allows his inner editor to relax and let the creative juices flow. So, if you think about it, these types of mistakes are okay when the process begins. Yet with each successive draft, more of these types of mistakes may occur if something relevant comes up and needs to be fleshed out. As such, James will, again, let his inner creative juices flow forth without hindrance.

The “fix” takes place when you go back and read your words after each writing spurt or editing phase. This should take place after each successive draft. It’s now time to correct the spelling and grammatical errors. Again, don’t worry about them while typing. If you do, you run the risk of stifling your creative talents.

Sometimes James has been known to bring a character into the story that he thinks will add to the plot. After carrying the individual throughout and building them texturally such that they can be seen clearly, it may become obvious to James that he’s gone off the deep end by adding an unrelated subplot.

The “fix” is simple: Take it out. Alternatively, take what is relevant to the story from this character and give it to a different, more appropriate character. Again, while it is easy for us to say it is simple, it may be difficult to cut story lines on which you’ve worked diligently. Set your ego aside for the benefit of the story. At least try to for the sake of the story.

Other times James decides to place his story or poem in a locale of which he knows nothing. He’ll research the area, but the reader will know that there is something about the locale that is not right. Especially when the area is critical to the plot and character development.

The “fix” involves making sure each story and its locale are well known – travel there and experience it for yourself. If you can’t travel there, watch movies or documentaries about the place and time. This type of research is invaluable to the believability of your story. Of course, if your local is make believe, then it must be make to come alive in the reader’s mind’s eye.

A critical mistake James sometimes makes is in thinking that his writing is spot on. There are times he doesn’t recognize that the poem or story or chapter or elements within them are irrelevant or simply not worth keeping.

The “fix” involves taking a break from the story. Walk away and do something completely different. The amount of time away will depend upon you. It could be an hour, a day, a week, etc. You decide. Then go when you are capable of recognizing what, if any, work should be removed and either deleting the line, paragraph, chapter, story or poem – that’s right, highlight and tap the “delete” tab, or drag and drop the whole piece into the trash. It’s not easy to do, but better that than wasting time trying to make it work when it won’t – move on to the next.

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(Public domaine)

On occasion, James assume that a specific poem or story is complete; yet still not feel as if it is very good. He isn’t sure whether or not to keep or trash it. This can be quite common among writers, as they all second-guess themselves, questioning their ability. James “sort of,” “kind of” liked one of his poems, and submitted it, along with others, to a publication. The editors “loved” the one of which he was unsure. He learned a valuable lesson: Someone, somewhere will like what he’s written.

The “fix” is to have others read your material so they can let you know what they think — this is invaluable for every piece you write. And never stop writing — you have stories to tell, and there are millions of people who want to read/hear/see/taste/touch/smell them.

Which brings us to submissions. James sends his work out frequently, and receives many more declines than acceptances. These declines could be due to one or more factors other than the piece not being any good. One short story that is going to be publish soon had been declined by seven journals before finding a home. James assumed that every place he sent this short story would want to publish it. So why didn’t they?

The “fix” is to make sure the publication (journal, magazine, online) are appropriate for the topic. James has a story where a ghost possesses a parrot. Now this story wouldn’t be right for very many publications. Doing research on where it might fit is important. Yet even more important is making sure that you read, understand and apply the guidelines required. If the publication wants it in 12 point, Times New Roman, and double-spaced, don’t submit it single spaced in Courier at 10 points. If they tell you to put page numbers on the bottom right, don’t forget to put them in, or assume you’ll be the exception to the rule and put them at the top right. The easiest thing to do is to send an email to the editor with any questions you might have. James has always heard back from his queries. Of course, following these words of wisdom doesn’t mean your work will be accepted, but it won’t be declined from having not been read in the first place.

James and I would like to know if you’ve ever discovered you’ve made a writing mistake. If you have, what kind was it? That is if you’d feel comfortable sharing the details. Perhaps it was a different type from what we’ve listed above as this is not an exhaustive list. If so, please tell us. Also, what did you do to “fix” this mistake?

I always like hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all. (Oh, I got a treat – I love James.)

 Until next week,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated
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What to Do When You Make a Mistake – Part I.

Hello everyone. It’s me, Ollie. And James and I are back from our walk for the day. Some say spring is around the corner, and boy am I glad. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice any time of year, and I love being outside. But once it gets warmer, James will go on longer walks with me.
Image 3-8-16 at 7.37 AM Gosh! I think I may have made a mistake. I didn’t mean to imply that James doesn’t stay outside with me for nice long walks during the winter. No, I didn’t. But it sure sounded like that. Wow! I hope James knows I’m sorry. (A treat! Yeah, he does. I’m so lucky to have him. Another treat – a double score!)

What is a mistake? Well, it took me some time to recognize one, what with my peeing and pooping inside for the first couple of months of my life. Once I figured out that doing my business inside was not appropriate, I realized every time I did that it was a mistake. Sure, as James says, “Mistakes happen.” We learn to live with them. But this kind of mistake is only one of the many we can make. Call this one a physical mistake. Humans make physical mistakes when they use their bodies or a projectile to hurt another.

The other types of mistakes are verbal, like when I’m barking in the car. That is so rude. I rarely do it, but sometimes I forget. People say things they don’t mean, or are only kidding; but when someone takes it the wrong way, well, it becomes a mistake. James has made his fair share of these kinds of mistakes, like when he teased a friend about his weight. James thought they were better friends, and certainly didn’t see anything wrong with the weight they were, so saying something about not seeing where he’d lost the weight didn’t appear to James to be hurtful. But it evidently was. Especially when another friend of his said she’d be pissed if he’d said that to her. It only took that little bit of support for this to have been taken the wrong way.

Another type of mistake is mental. Like when I think something that is hurtful, even if it isn’t barked out loud. I’d really like to catch a chipmunk or bird, and even dream about it. But James has told me that it would be a mistake since all I’d do is harm the other animal. If I were able to eat them, then that would be different. But I don’t need to eat them, so even thinking about it is a mistake. When humans wish harm on someone else, they are making a mistake – at least that’s what James says. After all, you are only human, and humans make mistakes. Believe me, your loving companions know. There is also the mental manipulation of another that is always a mistake. This can be one of the most harmful since it involves mind games.

So why do we make mistakes? James says it’s usually because humans aren’t thinking about what either comes out of their mouths or from their bodies or minds. Had you thought about it, even for a short period, the mistake probably wouldn’t have happened. Closely related are the innocent mistakes, like James’ weight comment. He thought it would be okay to ask where the weight had been lost since he thought it was funny. But the person who had lost the weight didn’t think it was funny, especially after receiving the support from the other friend. This is what James calls an innocent mistake. It was intended otherwise, but found itself in the error column.

There are people out there who want to control others. They employ a mental abuse system. It involves trying to manipulate someone mentally, perpetrated by a self-centered person, and the one being abused ends up hurting and usually not knowing why, at least initially. Yet once they figure it out, watch out. The poop will hit the fan.

Two other types of mistakes both dogs and humans make are closely related. One is made because of jealousy and the other is committed because of meanness. When I see another dog with a bone, I get jealous and try to take it away from them. This is a mistake, especially if the other dog is bigger than me. (Okay, James didn’t like that excuse. He’s right. It doesn’t matter the size of the other dog.) Jealousy is simply not a nice thing, and often leads to mistakes in judgement. So my jealousy led me to a mean act — that of trying to take the bone away. If you’ve ever tried to take a bone away from another dog, you know what I’m barking about. People also get jealous and do mean things – and these are mistakes.

Do you sometimes not realize you’re making a mistake? This is something that can happen at any time, and, unfortunately often does among friends. These are usually either mental or verbal mistakes, and they are usually based on jealousy or innocence. So long as we recognize that what we’ve thought or said is a mistake, and take appropriate action to correct the mistake, things should be okay. But they aren’t always, now are they?

How did you and those impacted by your mistake end up feeling? Usually when it is a mental mistake, no one knows but the dog (or human) who was having the inappropriate thought(s). In this case, whomever it is having those mental mistakes should recognize that those thoughts are wrong, and try to no longer have them. However, if a verbal or physical mistake is made, an apology is required. A simple, “I’m sorry,” has been known to work wonders, especially among friends. Yet not all dogs (or people) have been known to accept an apology. The person James thought was a good friend has never forgiven him, even though he has apologized multiple times. As such, James can no longer call him his friend. It took James quite a long time to get over the regret he has felt from having made that mistake.

Yet this does not mean when a mistake is made one should not apologize. Those adults (whether dog or human) who receive a sincere apology will, as grownups, accept it from their friend(s) and continue with them being a part of their lives. Friendship is like a marriage that needs to be cultivated. And it is usually friends who make mistakes towards other friends since they see and talk to one another so frequently. But when someone refuses to accept your apology, you must continue to love yourself for you are only human (or a dog).

How did you feel afterwards? After you’ve made a mistake, there are multiple ways in which you might feel, depending upon the severity of the mistake. These feelings range from evil to stupid. If you did something dangerous or physically harmful, you may come to realize that your actions were evil. Yet if the mistake was an innocent one, you may simply feel stupid.
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Once you have come to terms with the fact that you’ve made a mistake, you may at any time feel as if it wasn’t a mistake (denial); angry at yourself for having been so stupid or evil, or angry at the person who mistook your innocent comment as an error; and then depressed that the mistake has resulted in something you never intended. It is then that you will most likely feel sorry for both the other party and yourself. The unintended action resulting in the unintended reaction has known to not only be detrimental to friends, but to nations as well.

James and I would like to know if you’ve ever made a mistake. If you have, what kind was it? That is if you’d feel comfortable sharing the details. Perhaps it was a different type from what I’ve listed above. If so, please tell us. Also, what did you do and how did you feel after you made this mistake?

I always like hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.

 Until next week when Mistakes Part II will address writing mistakes,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated