Gotta stop being so picky

I often look at my published blog posts and think about what I could have done to make them better. For example: Is my topic too broad or too trite? Would the second paragraph have worked better as the first paragraph? Could I have worded a sentence differently? Could I have used a stronger verb here or there?

And I confess that I sometimes obsess over comma placement.

But then, I figure no one will really care. Or even notice. As long as the piece seems literate and semi-interesting, I should ask myself only a few questions before posting. 1) Is the piece coherent? 2) Do the sentences read smoothly? 3) Are the grammar, spelling, and punctuation correct? If I can answer yes to these questions, I should just leave the darn thing alone after I hit publish.

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I just have too much stuff

Like most people, I have household goods I no longer use and clothing I no longer wear. I have limited storage space, and I don’t want to store this stuff anymore. So I will donate the items to an organization that can pass them on to people who need them.

I’ve also decided to part with a lot of books I’ve acquired over the last five or ten years. I’ve kept some of them because I thought I might need them for research that is no longer relevant to my projects. For example, I’m not planning to write a paranormal novel, so I don’t need books about ESP, ghosts and goblins, and other things that go bump in the night.

Most of the books I have are books on writing. I’ll keep several of them, including books on naming characters, creating characters, and self-editing. I’ll keep a humorous book titled How Not to Write a Novel, which is one of my favorites. And over several years, I bought a series of books on the basics of writing a novel. These books have a lot of good, practical advice, so I’ll keep them, too.

I learned so much about the craft of writing fiction from this series. I also learned to hone my writing skills through participation in the University of Arizona’s fiction and nonfiction writing workshops. And I learned even more about writing fiction and nonfiction from programs sponsored by the writers organizations I formerly belonged to in Tucson. If I don’t know how to write by now, I might as well give up.

But I think I do, and I’m not.

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This seems to be happening too many times lately

Have you noticed that some version of the following scenario seems to be happening on Facebook groups and other Internet forums way too many times lately?

A group member will start a post with good intentions. Using a simple example, someone might ask about the best type of cat food for a new kitten. Not a controversial topic at all. At first, most of the responders offer good advice. And then, somewhere down the line, another person, possibly a troll, comments that he or she hates cats. Soon, a few more people chime in, agreeing with the cat hater.

Of course, people who love cats come to the defense of their furry friends. And, as the animosity escalates, posters don’t stick to the topic of cats. Before you know it, what started out as a perfectly innocuous post turns into a nasty, name calling, personal cyber feud between a few members of the group.

Cyber feuds are not fun if you are one of those group members who want to stick to the original topic and avoid getting caught up in the hostilities. And the hostilities often include the use of obscenities that would make even the more broadminded group members blush. Furthermore, sparring individuals either seem to forget or don’t care that children sometimes read these posts.

The guidelines for most Facebook groups and Internet forums prohibit any sort of nastiness, from cyber bullying to posting inappropriate pictures. Unfortunately, the administrators of those sites often don’t seem to be around to deal with violations of the guidelines.

You could opt out of the group. But if you really like the group, isn’t opting out conceding victory to the troublemakers? It’s much easier to simply block them. Trouble is, when you get rid of one, sometimes two more pop up.

So please, people, try to be nice. If you want to feud with someone on the Internet, take it to a private message. Or maybe seriously consider creating a Sound Off group page where being nice is more than often not a requirement. People who want to argue about touchy topics can do so there without offending others who sometimes have or have had enough drama in their real lives and don’t want to deal with it online.

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I do have my standards

I’m curious. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer. Or maybe I’m just plain nosy. When I hear about someone who’s doing something out of the ordinary, I want to learn more about that person and whatever it is he or she is doing. And I want to know why.

Blog fodder? Possibly.

However, I wouldn’t publish a blog post about someone without that individual’s approval, and I probably wouldn’t mention his or her name and exact location. Sadly, you can’t be too careful these days. People are entitled to their privacy, even if they are doing something unusual in a public place.

Well, that is unless they are hurting themselves or another person. For example, if I saw someone attempting to dive off a cliff using an umbrella as a parachute, I would get out my cell phone and dial 9-1-1.

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Yes, I dated during the Dark Ages

I signed up for the April Camp NaNoWriMo challenge, but, with so many things going on in my life at the time, I quit after the first week. However, I’ll get the chance to do better in a few months, when I try again during the July Camp NaNoWriMo challenge.

I’m not sure what I’ll write about in July. I read a lot of memoirs, so during the past couple of years I wrote—care to guess?—memoirs. I titled one of them Adventures in Working and the other, Adventures in Learning.

I’m thinking I should write a memoir titled Adventures in Dating. Or, possibly, Dating in the Dark Ages. I’ve been out of the dating game since 1974, when I met late Other Half. However, my dating experiences prior to that, especially the ones during high school and college, were sometimes interesting. For example, I didn’t like being pressured into blind dates, but one of them did turn out okay—until I caught him with another girl.

Then there was the night my best friend, Kate, talked me into a blind date with a guy who I swear had gray hair. I was seventeen. Years later, I wrote a, um, creative nonfiction anecdote about that experience and had it published in a newspaper. My anecdote was included in a reporter’s feature article on Valentine’s Day. I titled the piece “My Date Set My Best Friend on Fire.” I knew it couldn’t miss and it didn’t. My entry was the first bad date featured in the article.

On another night, Kate and I sort of ditched a couple of rather annoying guys at a drive-in movie. We told them we were going to the ladies room. We lied. Instead, Kate was about to call a cab when a couple of girls I often saw at a local nightspot walked by, heard part of our conversation, and assumed that we’d been dumped. After they introduced themselves, Kate and I realized they were the sister and cousin of a girl who had just married Kate’s former boyfriend.

Our new acquaintances didn’t think Kate should waste her money on a cab. Neither did Kate. So we spent the rest of the movie sitting in the sister’s car, mostly chatting about the bride and groom. Kate didn’t let on that she had been new brother-in-law’s great love. (Kate had dumped him for another guy.) And I kept my mouth shut.

When we went back to our dates at the end of the night, they didn’t ask why it took us so long to get back to them. And we didn’t even attempt to make up an explanation.

Years later, I also wrote up that dating experience and got it published.

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Some guidelines from your prospective editor

Several years ago I agreed to do a sample edit of a memoir. The author claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of a minor celebrity. Some parts of her story just seemed off, so I did a little research. I discovered that the man whom she claimed as her birth dad was born about ten years after the author. No, I did not continue to edit the project.

Yes I am looking for work; however I do have some general guidelines for prospective clients.

If you’re writing a memoir and fibbing about your life, I’m not the editor for you. Always include proper references for any materials from other sources that you’re using in your project. In other words, don’t plagiarize. And, please don’t send me another version of your story while I’m editing the first one.

I will edit only one version of your manuscript unless otherwise agreed to in advance. You must send me your final draft. Don’t send me what is essentially a rough draft and expect me to fix it. Sorry, but I’m not a ghostwriter. And if your final draft contains too many typos, grammar mistakes, and/or inconsistencies, I will send it back to you and politely suggest that you clean it up before resending it to an editor. In the long run, your bank account will thank you.

And if you decide to revise your project after I have sent you my final edits, please have someone, anyone, edit your final, final version before you publish the work.

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Got to give up the reading marathon

I’ve been downloading eBooks from Amazon for a couple of years. I paid between $.99 and $11.99 for maybe one fourth of them. However, most of my downloads have been freebies. I’ve enjoyed reading about one third of the free eBooks. Some of the books I liked weren’t well written, but they held my interest long enough for me to get through them.

I often stayed up way too late in order to finish reading the books I downloaded that day. Not necessarily because they were so interesting, but because I knew I would be downloading more books the next day. I wanted to stay ahead of the game, so to speak.

I faithfully check the freebies advertised on BookBub every day. However, for the past month or so, BookBub has been repeating free offers for the books I already have. I’ve also decided that reading e-Books, especially mysteries, just before bedtime probably isn’t conducive to a getting a good night’s sleep.

And anyway, I think I should spend more time writing than reading, which is probably what I should have been doing all along.

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I rewrote this post three times

I don’t leave comments online often, but when I do, I try my best to ensure that my observations are tactful, coherent, and grammatically correct. As a non-traditional college student in the late 90s, I received an English department certificate for excellence in expository prose. I guess I still feel obligated to meet the expectations implied in that award.

Usually, I’ll write a comment in response to a Facebook thread or news article, and then edit it forever until I decide it’s good enough to publish. But once in a while (not often) I’ll respond to a Facebook thread and give it a quick glance before hitting “enter”. When I read the published post two seconds later, I realize the comment isn’t quite right. I might not have said what I really wanted to say. Or I might have misspelled a word or left out a punctuation mark. Sometimes I’ll just edit the post. More likely, I’ll delete it, rewrite it or correct the error, and repost.

I’m just as picky about my blogs. I’ll write 250–500 words, and then edit them forever until I’m convinced that the content is presentable for publication. That’s why my blog posts are sometimes so far between (that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it).

As a student, I always had the urge to rewrite essay questions on exams. However, I took so long writing the initial essay that I had no time to look over any part of the exam, let alone rewrite anything. Writing academic reports and research papers was worse. I would write, and rewrite, and rewrite again, and then stay up all night editing the final copy because the paper was due the next day.

I’m so glad I no longer have to write academic reports or research papers. And I try to limit my blog posts to 500 words max. But there is that major NaNoWriMo project that I’m revising . . .

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I confess that I fibbed, well, sort of

I’m neither a news anchor, journalist, or politician, nor do I pretend to be any of those. However, speaking of people who seem to have a tendency to, um, exaggerate their experiences in some small (or large) way . . .

I confess that I sort of inadvertently fibbed when I responded to a Facebook thread. I committed this small faux pas last week when I commented on a picture of Amtrak’s Lakeshore Limited (LL). I wrote that I had taken the LL from Chicago to Berkshire County Massachusetts. I mentioned that I started the journey in Tacoma, Washington, and changed trains three times. That statement implied that it took four trains to get me to the East Coast.

That’s not what actually happened. I took three trains, not four, during the trip. I changed trains only twice. I didn’t intentionally overstate the number of trains I took to make the trip sound less boring than it was. No, that’s not quite right; sometimes it wasn’t boring.

If I had wanted to make the journey sound more exciting, I would have mentioned the obviously drunk dude (DD) whose antics woke other passengers in the middle of the night. After an argument with the conductor, DD was ejected from the train when it stopped in East Bearshoot, Idaho, sometime between midnight and 2 a.m.

Honestly, I didn’t mean to fib about the number of trains I took. I wrote three instead of two because I posted the comment on borrowed time, so to speak. I had to shut down quickly that morning and leave the house to go somewhere. And I was already late. I posted my comment in too much of a hurry and didn’t have time to proof my post.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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A lesson for writers, including me

I began reading the books in a popular series when the first book was published in 1992. The series is one of my favorites. The books are well written, with well-developed characters and storylines that hold the reader’s interest.

Because books in a traditionally published series are published once a year, I usually read only one book a year. However, that changed recently when I had more spare time than I knew what to do with. Over several days, I re-read six of the books in that series in the order they were published. The events in the books take place within a few years.

That’s when I discovered an inconsistency in a recurring character’s marital status. In the first book, the character is married. In a book published two years later, the character has been divorced from his wife for over twenty years. According to a more recent book, he hasn’t seen his ex-wife in about thirty years.

I wonder why the author didn’t catch the discrepancy, not that it matters much to me. The series is still one of my favorites. However, let that be a lesson to writers (including me): Always create bios/timelines for your characters, especially if you think you might write more than one book about them. And refer to the bios when you’re writing subsequent books.

And, yes, I’m probably the only one who will ever notice the inconsistency.

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