In an effort to prove that we all make mistakes and need to laugh at ourselves (and so you call all have some chuckles at my expense), I thought I'd tweak something I posted awhile ago for the Writing on the Wall blog where I'm the Wednesday contributor (it's a writing and editing blog for Precision Editing Group, which I'm part of).
Long-time readers have heard me sing the praises of my critique group, which is composed of several talented, published writers. (But we started out as a group of unpublished, aspiring writers. Look how far we've come!) We continue to meet regularly and read our work aloud to one another for feedback.
I've been attending for over 9 years, and I won't stop anytime soon. Some might think that by now we must have exhausted our usefulness to one another, that we've learned all we can, and might as well move on. Nothing is further from the truth. I've found that extra sets of eyes looking at my work will find things that I am incapable of seeing because I'm the one who wrote it.
It doesn't matter how great a writer is; the fact that you wrote the piece by its very nature dictates that you cannot see all the holes. The moment I think I'm such a good a writer that I don't need outside feedback is the day my writing takes a nosedive.
Even though most of what we look for consists of big stuff like plot and character issues, every so often we come upon something little that makes us all laugh out loud—usually something that didn't come out quite how we meant it to, something you most definitely don't want showing up on a bookstore shelf one day.
Below are a few gems that came from a single meeting about a year ago. Remember: All of these sentences came from authors who have multiple published novels under their belts. It happens to the best of us.
1. James hadn't meant to let it slip that he wasn't married, at least to his boss.
(No, James isn't married to his boss . . .)
A set-up for #2: the character in question has built a narrow enclosure for a horse, using dowels slid through the back opening of the area to prevent the horse from backing out of it. Okay, now the sentence will make more (silly) sense. Note that we've been talking HORSES:
2. He had made holes for sliding sticks through the rear end instead of her recommended two.
(Uh, that would be the rear end of the enclosure . . .)
The next one shows a scuffle between two WOMEN:
3. Suddenly her hands were on my chest, pushing me backwards.
(Doubt she meant to give her an unscheduled mammogram . . .)
Note there's nothing inherently bad about any of these sentences, but in context and with a different pair of eyeballs than the author had, a new meaning emerged.
Sometimes our "bloopers" are of the grammatical variety. Other times they're simply ambiguous. Then there are those that just leave a silly image in your mind.
Here are more gaffs I've gathered over the years (they're too funny to not keep a running file of)—all real quotes from drafts brought to our critique group.
And yes, some are mine:
Suddenly, my mother turned into a driveway.
Your grandmother killed him before I got the chance.
Lizzie's hands flew to her mouth. Inside lay four books.
Lighting a candle, she settled beneath the covers.
[My commentary: Then poof! went the quilt in a ball of flames . . .]
Andrew noted his lean frame on the high counter sipping his drink.
. . . he began, then stopped seeing Jacob's scowl
Quiet and patient, Alice's dark hair was always pulled into a simple bun.
She realized that tears were streaming down her cheeks. How could they?
One of the worst (best?) bloopers was mine, but the double meaning is so bad that I won't share it for all the world to see. That, and it's hideously embarrassing. I still blush at the memory. (NOT what I meant!)
It was worse than the time Jeff [or Scott, as he's commonly known now] had a detective wondering about the leak in a case as a character relieved himself in a bush. (He's the one who always brings up my really bad gaff. If you ever see him, go ahead and ask what it was. He'll tell you, and totally laugh his head off while doing it.)
And here's our all-time favorite blooper:
The set-up: A man is hiding inside a cedar wood closet. The smell of the wood reminds him of the cedar chest his mother once owned. But instead of saying it like that, it came out like this:
The scent reminded him of his mother's big, smelly chest.
I still giggle at that one.
We've had our laughs over all of these, and any time someone lets a blooper loose, I write it down—not only because of the chuckle, but because it's a subtle reminder that we all need one another to read over and catch not only our bloopers, but all kinds of other things that can make our writing continually better.
It's something every writer needs. A sense of humor helps too.
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