Writing-related Googling (Part I) (Mistake #63)

Because if you indulge in it, and one of the results takes you to the writing blog of a tutor who favours reading his Google Analytics stats ahead of addressing his looming deadlines, you run the risk of your search term being appropriated, occasionally for lightly comic purposes, and presented to readers in Writing-related Googling (Part II) – which (I hope) will follow next December, and (I hope) becomes a regular feature of this blog…

But seriously, this isn’t as frivolous a post as you might be fearing. Yes, there’s a bit of fun, but there are useful points to be made – and issues to be raised – too. Indeed, the questions asked of the interweb by visitors to the Mistakes blog this year have made me think quite a bit about writing and literary concerns – and I think this tiny collection may provide a snapshot of what a few of those are.

I’ll never know whether answers to queries were found here, but in case not, and the visitors hung around for more, perhaps these will help them.

“Do good writers make mistakes?”
A serious and important one to kick us off. The answer to this question is yes.

Furthermore, good writers make more mistakes than poor writers, because making mistakes is an essential part of the writing and learning process. You get good by cocking up and by improving your drafts (ie your versions with mistakes in them). The more you get wrong, the more you eventually get right. Good writers get more right than bad writers get right too. Good writers just do more.

“Is it wrong to console yourself with the mistakes of others?”
I doubt this was a writing-related one – and I hope the soul who typed those words found their answer and, if needs were, their peace – but I’ll try to answer it as if on-topic.

My first thought when I saw this was that presuming that you need consolation for a mistake as well, then no, it’s not wrong – so long as your feelings towards the other parties aren’t malicious or too dominated by schadenfreude. You’re basically comforting yourself with the knowledge that we are all flawed, that none of us is perfect, and even those whose paths you aspire to follow can, and do, get things wrong. We’re all in it together.

But I wasn’t completely confident in my own view.

Attempting to convince myself of it, I realised that I might try to console a friend with my mistakes. “There, there, mate – I’ve cocked up too.” Or, in other words, to give an example in a writerly sense: “Never mind – I’ve sent a rubbish idea to an editor as well.”

So if you’re happy to invite someone to console themselves with your own inadequacies and cock-ups, should the answer to the question, on those grounds alone, be no?

Not quite 100% convinced, but getting there.

“How do authors do those hyphen things?”
Ah. Sweet. But hyphens aren’t special little marks only Proper Writers use. They have lots of purposes, like joining up words to form compound words, or clarifying, and here’s a silly old post of mine which will tell you more. (I shall try to do a Proper Post on Hyphens soon.)

“Can you get money for pointing out mistakes in books?”
Can you? I have no idea. I have subsequently found several trivial bloopers in my own books, which opens up the possibility of a new career writing books with deliberate mistakes in them and then being paid to point them out. I demand to know the truth at once…

“I’ll wait for inspiration to strike”
This is perhaps my favourite of the year: a defiant statement made to the Internet. “I am going to sit here and be patient for the flash of magic to descend from the skies. And while I’m hanging around for this motivational thunderbolt, I’m just going to quickly tell Google.” (Well, you never know, it might help hurry things along.)

Of course: you can’t wait for literary inspiration to strike. Well, you can, I guess, but it’ll not be advisable from a time management perspective. You all know that you’ve got to just get cracking. And if you’ve nothing to get cracking about – then go out and find something. Read stuff, observe things, talk to people. That’s when inspiration will strike – not when typing into a search engine.

“What’s wrong with second-hand books?”
I guess the quick answer would be nothing, but this is something that has been bothering me for some time.

On one hand, we want people to read, and second-hand books provide a more affordable alternative to new books. We can’t all keep every book we buy and giving them away, perhaps to charity, is obviously preferable to adding them to your recycling box.

But on the other, if Amazon and private traders and second-hand book dealers are making money from books – then authors surely deserve a cut.

Unless I’ve missed it, I don’t think this has been debated enough – so I don’t feel adequately equipped with the pros and cons to have come down confidently on one particular side.

My gut feeling as it stands is, that with some sort of exception applying to, say, charity shops, I really think it’s time that Amazon and the rest made some a payment to writers for trade in second-hand books. A contribution towards a collective pot to be distributed in PLR, perhaps?

“I have pinched an idea from another magazine”

Ah, the confessional. I wonder whether absolution was found? You know what – it’s not needed. It’s not a sin. You’re just pinching the germ of an idea, usually, and by the time you’ve added your own spin, you’ve tailored it for a new market, your editor has had their input… it’s a different thing altogether. I ‘pinch’ from Italian magazines regularly, and even if the ideas don’t come off, they may spark other ideas and set you off down a different road. This is why it’s so important to read magazines. That idea in the dog magazine might be reworkable for a horse magazine. The lads’ mag idea, inverted, may work for a young women’s magazine. And so on. Ideas from old magazines, as I said recently, can be brought up to date.

“Appostrophies – where to put them?”
Well, try here – although might I politely point out that there’s a little spelling issue to tackle as well?

“Must you address an editor with dear?”

Well, yes – in the main I do think it’s preferable to ‘Yo!’

“How to write words on your nails.”

I definitely think you need a different blog…

And on that note, I’ll thank you for reading the Mistakes blog this year, and will wish you a happy Christmas, but not yet a New Year, as I may well be back for a final post of 2011.

Writing bloggers! Any intriguing search terms in your Analytics this year? Please add a comment if so!

Comments 8

  • Great post – I often put some of my favourite keyword searches into a post along the lines of Gardeners' Question Time.

    It's not writing related (because I'm a garden blogger/writer), but my favourite Search happened only a couple of days ago:

    I have an 88 pound gnome

    Are they a) Boasting? b) Looking for where to put it in their garden? c) trying to find advice on any structural strengthening required for where they're going to put it? d) Trying to find a suitable diet for it? e) something else?

  • Could it be gnome internet dating? Are they f) looking for a suitably proportioned partner for the weighty gnome? Our minds can merely boggle…

  • People have found my blog with the following terms recently:

    "I am a psychopath" (good to know)
    "I hate Paul Dacre" (not keen on him myself)
    "My bin were taken" (quite!)

    and the weirdest one so far has been

    "pictures of assemblies in japanese primary schools".

    Not a writing blog either, but I spend lots of time reading what people have searched for to get to my blog.

  • Quite a mix! I'm glad mine are relatively mundane – though I get the odd way-out one from time to time…

  • Happy Christmas.

    The search terms people use to look for my blog are all boringly sensible – usually something to do with writing competitions or asking how to get hold of free iPads and Kindles.

  • I'll wish you a happy new year filled with bonkers search terms, Patsy!

  • Have just linked to this on my Facebook page – good post, guilty as sin myself!
    Oh, and I have a lonely gnome, needs a wife…
    Louise Gibney

    http://www.facebook.com/louise.gibney.writer

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