My Obsessive Compulsion Is Really Weird

There are those with obsessive compulsion disorders like constantly checking the stove to make sure the burners are really and truly off, or always washing their hands, or rechecking the door to make sure it is locked when leaving the house, or always looking at their legs to make sure you did not leave the house without pants.

Mine is different. It has to do with quotation marks.

No I am not kidding.

Here is how it works. I write say ten chapters of a new novel and I decide to proofread these ten chapters before continuing the novel. I try to read close, often word by word, comma by comma, but those quotation marks get to me. I will read a chapter twice, three times, looking to see if the quotation marks are there. Not only that, but to make sure there is a comma, as in “I don’t know what to say,” he said. Sometimes a period sneaks in before the closing mark, so I need to see the marks, see the comma, then of course there is the split quote, as in “I don’t know what else to say, ” he said, “but I can tell you show you something.” That is four quotation marks and two commas to confirm.

Sometimes happy fingers hit this – ‘ rather than this- ” and I must make sure I have the correct mark.

The thing is, even after checking two or three times in the first chapter, if I find a problem in the second chapter it makes me think I missed something in the first one, especially if in the second chapter I found the error on the second or third reading. So I reread the first chapter. This could go on for years. Honestly.

Some writers have a mental block about writing. I have a mental block proofreading with quotation marks my bugaboo, my white whale, my Waterloo. I could give quotes about this disability, but I would have to check to make sure the quotes I used are correct.

If you find any quotation errors in these books, please forgive me. Sometimes I miss the quotation tree through the forest.

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How a gremlin tried to sabotage my e-book-writers beware!

I am the world’s worst proofreader.

In light of my declaration of inadequacy, I take offense that I was targeted by digital gremlins. They were out to sabotage me, and indeed, they partially did. I really don’t need their help. I am perfectly capable of self-sabotage. The following is a true story.

My e-book “Loonies in Hollywood” was published on Kindle Direct a few  years ago. I used an independent formatter where I proofread, then viewed changes on my Kindle app 250 times. The number came from a counter on the formatter, and the proofreading was over ten days. I knew I could not catch everything, but I had caught so much I considered something unworldly was going on.

There came a time when both my eyes and my mind were weary and bleary. Eager to publish I went ahead. Bad decision. sent a review copy to someone knowledgeable on the story I wrote. He emailed me a number of spelling and grammatical errors. I corrected all but one.

He had said there were times I used the word Edward when it should have been Edwin. I went to the formatter, did a search and replace for Edward, but it said there were no occurrences. He saw Edward, my formatter does not see Edward. I checked some pages where his name was likely to be found. I could not find Edward.

Two days later the book had a free day. The Edward-Edwin thing kept bothering me. Late in the day, that inner voice said to check the formatter one more time. I did another search and replace for Edward, and this time it found nine occurrences. What? One day none, another day nine. Truthfully, I was so confused, I am not sure what is name was. It could by Wally for all I know.

To go from zero occurrences to nine the reason must be e-world gremlins? I have heard rumors about them, even saw a documentary about them on the PCC Network (Paranormal-Cryptid-Conspiracy). Now I have had a personal encounter.

I republished the book in the middle of the free day; with I am sure, millions upon millions of eager readers wanting to devour my loony book.

But I had no choice; this is the e-world I live in, one where gremlins lay in wait like a collide rattler, ready to strike venom into my hopes, dreams, and livelihood.

Like I need any help.

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This post was revised and edited from one of my previous posts on another website

Two mandates of writing to use in your life

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There are two things a writer, any writer, must do or he will fail. It is unescapable and few writers, if any, like doing it, for that is where the hard work is, but the two mandates can also be applied to your life and it is a good idea to use them .

The first is proofreading. It is sitting down and reviewing what has been written to see what needs changing. And there are mistakes in writing and there are mistakes in one’s life. So in proofreading you examine how do make the story better. Your life is your story, so why not periodically sit down and review you life, check to see what needs improving; what needs fixing and how to fix it.

I remember while proofreading my first e-novel, “Loonies in the Dugout” that two sections, the writing of which I liked, still had to be cut entirely out of the story. Not cleaned up, not revised, but deleted with prejudice. Neither section advanced the story or had any character development. If there is something in your life that is not advancing your story or helping your development, then cut it out.

Cutting things out of your life, as in fiction, is called editing. Yes, you can edit your life for you are the writer, the proofreader, and the publisher. Your audience are friends and family. If you like, you can ask them what they would hope to see you edit out of your life. (not saying they’re right, but it doesn’t hurt to listen).

In the same e-novel I was trying for a theme in the first part of the book. It had to do with heat. The story was true and it began in the summer of 1911 when there was a heat wave, many people died during this time. So I had a lot of metaphors, similes, and descriptions where heat factored in the story. The problem I saw was that it did not work and had to be rewritten. As much as I liked it, it didn’t work, so it had to be changed.

That is the hard part about proofreading and editing your life. There are things you like, say eating three maple bars for breakfast. Who doesn’t love maple bars? But I don’t think three is good for you. Maybe cutting to one, then down to one half, then cutting them out would be a good idea. Blueberries in oatmeal, now that is better for your story.

So that is what I have learned from writing, to sit down, look at my life, see what needs changing, editing, fixing, and to make necessary changes. You can do the same and you don’t have to be a writer.


The best writing lesson from a six word story

Ernest Hemmingway is know for many memorable novels. I prefer Fitzgerald for Jazz Age writers, but like food, it is a matter of taste. I like cheese, my brother doesn’t. And he claims to be Scandinavian. But Hemmingway’s six word story is food for a writer to digest. It is the best example of flash fiction I can think of.

In my previous blog I wrote about the simplicity of Bukowski’s opening to his novel “Post Office.” Simplicity was the theme in that post and so is this one. Hemmingway wrote, “Baby clothes for sale, never worn.”

My first thought is the story is a tragedy. The baby died. Since the clothes were never worn, did the mother lose the baby, perhaps it was stillborn. But maybe the clothes were blue and the baby was a girl and the parents want pink. I don’t know.

But what writers can learn is that they need not always be descriptive. If a writer goes into the description of the clothes, the type, the color, the why, it could be the writer is clogging the readers mind with unnecessary information. There are things to tell and things not to tell, because the details are not important.

As I said in my Bukowski blog a writer can get in the way of his story. Elmore Leonard is said to have had a rule of never writing about the weather. If true his tongue may have been in his cheek. In my novel in progress that takes place in western Washington during November of 1927, I mention that it is raining in a couple of scenes. I note that it is the thick misty type of rain that so often inundates the area. But I do no belabor the point, not going into great detail, not over doing it. And it is important to place and atmosphere of the story. But the point is, I kept it simple.

When a writer goes over what he wrote he should not fall in love with his words. He should look at how to cut, what to cut. In doing so, in making it simple, in making it clear, the story is front and center, not the vainglorious wordsmith. 

What indie writers need to edit other than their stories

An occupational hazard of writers is not being able to see the forest through the trees, though when you think about it how could you see the forest if you are stuck among trees. If you are standing on a plateau you can see both and that brings me to my point.

It is not about editing your story or novel. Writers spend a lot of time revising, proofreading, and fixing up. But there is one thing e-writers like myself sometimes forget. In my case my brain is slow, as I said in my headline, slower than a slug on salt. It is if I am standing among the trees, tall evergreens reaching high into the sky, but can not see the obvious.

The obvious is that no matter what app you use, Amazon for instance, a writer needs to periodically check his book descriptions. Your book description is your advertisement, your hook to lure the reader to your wonderful, colorful, engaging book. I have revised mine a number of times. I do not know how many times I have changed them. In the beginning the logline was descriptive, but from the plateau looking at the forest, not very interesting. It is more fun to be among the trees, unless there are snakes of course.

I have condensed, clarified, and tried to make the descriptions, which can be seen above, more attractive, more enticing. I don’t know if I am done or not. I thought I was done before, a few times. But every time I review them I see where I can make them better. It goes back to what many writers say, that before revising and proofreading story, let in sit for six months-too long for me-I ignore my story for three months-before looking at the story with fresh eyes.

But the same is true for a writers loglines, descriptions, and any type of wordage used to promote and advertise. They are a work in progress. If sales are not going well, then revise your ‘what is this book about’ loglines, descriptions, and so forth. Take another approach another angle. Nothing is written in stone except the Ten Commandments and no revisions need be done there, though many people pay no attention to them. Maybe they need a better logline.

Confusing pronouns confuse readers, okay maddens readers

I won’t mention the novel, nor will I mention the author, as it is not my intent to embarrass a fellow writer. I enjoyed his story even though I got perturbed, mad, and upset with confusing pronouns. 

What I mean about confusing pronouns is when there are two characters in a scene and then a pronoun, such as ‘he’ is used, but the way the sentence or paragraph is written, you do not know which character the author is referring to. Confusion means the reader stops. Damn it, the flow is gone, who is talking, who is doing what, who is ‘he.’

It is an easy mistake for a writer because the writer knows who ‘he’ is. That ‘he’ is in the writers mind, but it is not in the reader’s mind and that is the problem. This problem surfaced a few times in the novel and was frustrating.

All writers know writing is fun and proofreading is torture. I hate proofreading, but finding and correcting, commas, misspellings, inserting missing quotation marks is the least of it. They are more noticeable, though it can-and has-taken me dozens of times to find them all. At least I think I have found those bugaboos. But a proofreader must read word by word seeking clarity in each sentence and to do this the author must have a clear mind. And that is why it is recommended a writer wait six months-at least by some-before proofreading. That way your mind is clear, you have forgotten much, and you are more likely to see mistakes. I tried waiting, but I could go only three months as the itch to publish was itching so badly I felt I needed a cream, but the only alternative was to proofread. I found things I would not have seen before. What I thought was clear in a paragraph became three months later a mess.  I tried to blame it on Word.doc and some sort of self correcting flaw in the software. But I knew better, though I liked to blame the computer. It made me feel better.

The easy thing for a writer to do in correcting confusing pronouns is to simply place the character’s name where he should be. It works better for the reader who wants a good flow, no confusion, so keep the readers  reading.

Though this is my first post on this site, I have had two  blogs for some time. I have one on writing called “The quill, the e-word, and the looniness.” Near the end of 2015 I closed my long time website,, to create this site for my blogs and my e-Books. So I will have the quill blog up for a while, but if you have followed me on that blog, I hope you will follow, not stalk, me here. At the top of this site is info on who I am and  what my novels and short stories are about. My Seattle Mariner blog  is here. Thanks for reading.