J.A. Stinger

Words Can Inspire The World

Ten most common mistakes in novels #wrtr2wrtr

Let’s make this short and sweet.

These are the top ten that come to mind from the books I’ve read over the last few months.

Factual accuracy

The best one I read this week was by an American author who set her book in London. She had her main character investing five million dollars in a private hospital (which sounded more like a care home to me) in the UK, and another character saying he would pay back every cent.

Um, MSJ, we still have pounds and pennies in Britain. Not dollars and cents.



This has to be one of the most frequent errors I see.

They are two different verbs.

Present tense: I lie on the sofa, but I lay the table.

Past tense: I lay on the sofa, but I laid the table.

Confusing huh? Probably because of lay in the present for one verb and past for the other.

Lie does not take a direct object, whereas lay does, ie the object above is table.


Such a silly one, and so easily overlooked. Won’t come up on spellcheck, so it needs a manual check.


British and Americans use of differently. We actually do still do look out of the window, walk out of the door and take the rice out of the cupboard. Is it the growing Americanisation of the Internet that seems to be eliminating ‘of’?

I do hope British authors don’t start writing, ‘Get your hands of off me!’


Inconsistent typography

Either use curly quotation marks or straight ones. Not both. It’s easy enough to get this wrong, because the curly ones need you to make an extra effort with keys. Also, don’t mix double quotation marks and single ones. I read one book recently that used doubles, singles, curlies and straight. And it had been expensively edited. Aaaaagh!

Hyphens and dashes

Don’t use a hyphen when you want to use a dash. A hyphen is not a dash. Loads of books have hyphens instead of dashes.

Hyphen: –

Dashes: – —

And on hyphens … compound words. They are changing all the time.


Why do people still get this wrong? Capital letters, commas, full points are all over the place. In the wrong place.

‘Hello,’ she said, ‘good to meet you.’


‘Hello,’ she said. ‘Good to meet you.’

But not:

‘Hello,’ she said, ‘Good to meet you’.

Use of apostrophes

Mrs Hodges had a cat.

Mrs Hodges’ cat was a tabby.

But not Mrs Hodges’ had a cat.


Blonde and blond.

If you decide to describe the hair colour of women as blonde, don’t swap to blond partway through.

If you have a character called Anne, don’t call her Ann later.


Don’t mix them in the same paragraphs/sentences. It is tortuous.

She said he is a nice person.

No. She said he was a nice person.

Some good tips from Kobo.

All of these, and more, contribute to self-publishing’s reputation.

But onto some well written books with a different cause for concern …


I’ve read a couple of books recently that both had the same theme. Stockholm Syndrome. Neither was badly written, in a slightly trashy summer novel sort-of fashion. Damn by faint praise?

What worried me about both books was that they were basically about raping woman, which tends to get glamorised because their captors are naturally, incredibly handsome, sexually attractive, and … rich.

In both books the women were drugged by men who had previously seen them and decided they wanted to possess them, body and soul. Primarily bodily, but they seemed to enjoy fucking with their minds as well.

Now, if someone drugs you in order to be alone with you and then have so-called consensual sex when the woman has no choice, I think that sounds an awful lot like rape. Regardless of whether the men are handsome, sexy and rich.

The reality of most rape cases is that women do not get held captive in luxurious surroundings – one rapist held his victim on a tropical island – and fall in love with their kidnapper.

And the problem with books like these is that they perpetuate the myth that women fantasise about being drugged and raped. They don’t. Believe me. They might fantasise about having consensual sex with rich handsome sexy men, but that isn’t rape. There is a difference.

Rape is not to be confused with sex, love or romance. Rape is about power, abuse and violence.

Which leads me onto MRAs. Misogynists’ Men’s Rights Activists, for my more sheltered readers not up on acronyms or misogynists.

Fire Point by Sean Black was an interesting book. I nearly put it down very early on because of the subject matter.

I avoid MRA outpourings on the manosphere and anything remotely involving discussions about red/blue pills and alpha/beta males. Let alone the pick-up artist community. The MRA vitriol is extremely offensive. If they were writing the same invective about racial minority groups they would be accused of racism. But because they are writing about women, their views are not only tolerated, MRAs are listened to. If you aren’t up on this unpleasant group, wiki will give you the basics.

So, in Fire Point, we have a small group of MRAs targeting women and killing them. The leader is, naturally, a woman who also opposes feminism and women in general. In real life, prominent women also support the men’s rights movement (MRM) at the expense of feminism.

The small group of activists in the story is planning a sensational mass murder, and it is up to our two (male) heroes, who are private investigators, to try and save the day. It’s not particularly HEA as there are a fair few dead bodies littered about, but it is pacy and a decent pageturner. Nor is it hugely gory, my concern was, like the rape stories above, about the legitimatisation of MRAs.

I wondered if Black was trying to highlight the idiocy and violence within MRAs/the manosphere or whether he just thought it was a good topic for a story. A very worrying topic.