Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Insidious attack of e-world gremlins

I am the world’s worst proofreader.

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

My e-book “Loonies in Hollywood” was published on Kindle Direct a couple of weeks ago. I used an independent formatter where I proofread, then viewed changes on my Kindle app  250 times. This 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. I 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.

Okay. 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.

Group portrait including Captain Edward Robert...

Group portrait including Captain Edward Robert Sterling (Photo credit: Australian National Maritime Museum on The Commons)

Two days ago 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 9 occurances. Truthfully, I am so confused, I am not sure what is name is. It could by Wally for all I know.

Okay. First none, now nine. Can the reason be other than e-world gremlins. I think not.

I had to republish the book in the middle of a 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 try to foil my hopes, dreams, livelihood.

Like I need any help.

By the way, if you are wondering how the above picture relates, so am I. I selected a picture of a gremlin I captured with a special miniature camera. I think we know what happened.

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How paranoia and a Taser like jolt saved my e-books

Publishing your first e-Book on Kindle is exhilarating. The fun part is clicking the publish button and see the word ‘draft’ sitting below the status header, knowing it will go live, after Amazon does whatever mysterious thing they do; the wait, according to Kindle Direct, anywhere up to twelve hours. It took my two books much less time.

Published!

Published! (Photo credit: patries71)

Then the scary part. Sit and wait, wondering if anyone in their right mind will buy one of the books. Exhilaration gives away to anxiety. You tell yourself it takes time for readers to find your book. There is enormous competition. A zillion e-books to chose from.  Book sales are easier if you write within a genre that is popular.  A satire under the guise of baseball fiction, based on a true story from 1911, does not illicit excitement for those seeking romance, thrillers, paranormal, or young adult. My second book is a mystery, also based on a true story, and also with satiric elements. It has a better chance, and is selling better than my baseball novel.

But when you think you are done, when you think your books are live, you might discover something on your author’s bookshelf page that will jolt you like being shot with a Taser.

I do not recall what the problems was, but I had to update details of my novels. I do remember fixing it. But I did forget one little thing.

It is a good thing I have two traits that tend to save my caboose from time to time. One is paranoia. I know, no matter what I do, even if I think I did things right, something is wrong. It is called experience. I keep finding mistakes where I felt none existed. It is like proofreading. You read the same paragraph forty times. It looks perfect. Then a week later you read the paragraph and notice missing quotations marks at the end of the sentence. I must constantly proofread my life and what I did, because my paranoia instincts tell me something is wrong.

The other trait is obsessiveness. Somewhere in my loony brain little voices nag at me, whisper at me. The voice knows what is wrong, but it has trouble reaching me because we exist in different dimensions. At least that’s my story.

The little voices nagged. But at what? For some reason I went into my bookshelf page a few days later and when I looked both books were in draft status. When I saw ‘draft’ my body received the Taser jolt. What I discovered was that after updating details I forgot to click publish.

I corrected the problem, then began the sit and wait phase again, this time wondering if anyone had tried to download the book, or if anyone tried.

I do know that, though I find the e-world exciting, there are times when I think Shakespeare had it good. He just had the quill and ink to worry about.

 

 

 

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Practice does not make perfect with 119 errors per minute

I have two blogs, each of which get fed three blogs per week, and on the 7th day I write a film review for my website. So I am tapping away on my keyboard every day. In addition I answer emails, comment on other blogs, write stories and novels, type sticky notes on my desktop, and on and on.

They say practice makes perfect, though who ‘they’ were, or are, has never been made clear. But they are wrong. Despite hours and hours of typing I cannot gain speed, nor accuracy, which may be worse. I just took an online typing test. It had a story and I was to type what was on the screen. I came in strong, well sort of strong at 39 words per minute. Most places expect 40 words per minute, so that was not bad. Problem is, it said, though I did not check, that I had 119 errors.

I plan on contacting Guinness to see if that is a world record. 119 errors in one minute. I must have missed every key.

I tried a different online typing test, but the site did not like anything I was doing and refused to cooperate.

So I tried yet another site. Feel free to congratulate me. In a very tiring test, I did 33 wpm with 5 mistakes. This tells me the test claiming I made 119 mistakes was trying to intimidate and bully me. 119! I think not.

English: Civilian Conservation Corps, Third Co...

English: Civilian Conservation Corps, Third Corps Area: typing class with W.P.A. instructor. (48223897(69), 00/00/1933, 27-0881a.gif) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course 33 wpm with 5 errors could be my career high. But we must consider that any of the above websites I checked may not have accurate software, that it miscalculates. We can’t just take it at face value.

I also must consider, as must we all, that the keyboard gets tired of being pounded hour after hour. To defend itself, the keyboard intentionally lures fingers into traps by hypnotizing your mind into clicking one letter, knowing you wanted the letter next to it. The keyboard strategy is to keep you mistyping words in a short amount of time, so that you will believe you are tired, coming to the natural conclusion you have been at it too long. It wants you to quit.

Which is why I now close my blog.

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Woody Allen’s battle in the 60’s is my battle today

Woody Allen had a comedy bit on mechanical objects from his standup days in the 1960’s that I identified with so strongly I never forgot it.  I am not mechanically inclined. What Ed Wood is to movies, I am to Mr. Fixit. This problem has carried over to e-world. And the problem is worse, as you will soon find out.

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City.

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But first, to set the stage, here is a link to Woody’s routine on YouTube. It lasts five minutes. Do not get lost surfing, do come back, I would hate for you to forget me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRB_ypEnL50.

It matters not what writing tool of the modern age I use, problems surround me. I was trying to format my first e-Book to Kindle specs in my Word.doc. I got to the table of contents instructions when I realized-after a few minutes of course-that I could go no further. My computer was new and I have Word Starter, not the full Word, which cost more money than I was willing to spend. I found a formatting website whose rates were good, meaning cheaper than buying the full Microsoft Word program.

On the formatting website I can look at my book through a viewer and edit as I go. Over eight days, I proofread 250 times-literally-there was a counter that gave me a revision count. The revisions included both revising the entire book, or sections of the book. My Kindle app showed what it should look like. But I would see a space between lines where no line was showing in my viewer; some I could fix, not easily though, and others had to be done from their website. Glitches you know.

And of course I have a printer that freezes in the middle of printing 95% of the time causing no end of aggravation, made more aggravating by not having anything in the manual to tell me why. I said manual, but it is two pages, and this from a major company.

On one of the days I was having both formatting and printing problems, I wrote a film review on my website. When I clicked preview, the screen went back and that little processing icon kept spinning. For hours it kept spinning. I minimized it, every so often checking. I did not want to lose what I wrote and could not remember if I had saved file, so did not want to exit. Finally, e-world gremlins won. I closed out the program. Luckily it had been saved. And on this same day my car radio display showing station and time kept flashing, but flashing something different than what was being displayed. Resetting did not help, nothing helped. It stays correct for five minutes then flashes instruction to something I had already set up. It is ongoing.

It does no good to gather all my mechanical and e-Age objects together. I have tried reasoning with them as Woody did. Computers, software programs, websites, car radios, you name it, they are in control, and they will let you know.

(Just after writing the previous sentence, as Jack Paar always said, “I kid you not,” I clicked ‘apply all keywords,’ doing so without looking. The name Cate Blanchett popped up. Why?  Is WordPress also toying with me?)

Enough!

 

 

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Why writers are blind to proofreading

Why is proofreading so painstaking? Why do we keep missing the little things?

I had two novels in Word doc. and had read them many times checking for punctuation errors. In late July I uploaded them to a formatting service so that I could publish them as e-books on Kindle. If you write, you want your writing to look perfect. I examined one novel, in whole or in part, 250 times in ten days. I could send revisions to my Kindle app on my PC and much to my anguish I kept finding missing quotations marks after a character had spoken.

proofreading...

proofreading… (Photo credit: monsterpants)

I finally published the two books, but I bet when I read them on my Kindle, I will see more mistakes. But now I know why.

It is called inattentional blindness.  For example, we think we are diligent in our proofreading. The brain, however, is processing outside of conscious awareness and to prevent overload like a computer crash, it will only process so much information. It filters out what we expect to see. I expected to see a quotation mark, so my brain filled in the gap. I thought it was there, but it wasn’t. 

This happened so many times I thought I was blind as a bat. It drove me to punctuation paranoia.

I recently saw a television documentary on the brain and perception. An experiment was conducted in which random people in a park were asked to read something in a triangle.

                                                                                                             I

                                                                                                      love Paris

                                                                                                          in the

                                                                                                    the springtime

Perhaps you caught the mistake because you were looking for it. But nearly everyone tested in the TV show did not see the repeated word ‘the’.  The phrase, ‘I love Paris in the spring’ is common, we have heard it many times. Consequently, because the people being tested  were familiar with the phrase, their brain reacted without processing.

Thus the perils of my proofreading. My mind works too fast.  I find it hard to slow down because my brain is running away from processing, turning its blind eye to the obvious.

Mark Twain must have known all this because he said of proofreading-and I hope I put in the quotation marks,- “And then there is that other thing: when you think you are reading proof, whereas you are merely reading your own mind; your statement of the thing is full of holes & vacancies but you don’t know it, because you are filling them from your mind as you go along.”

 

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Is using Word.doc really writing?

There is a bestselling writer, definitely old school, who is adamant that using Word doc. in a PC is not writing. He contended writers wrote longhand, or, his choice of weapon, the typewriter.

Sholes typewriter, 1873. Museum, Buffalo and E...

Sholes typewriter, 1873. Museum, Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must say the statement was made some years ago and I am only 95% sure of who made the statement, and he may have revised his original opinion in the interim, which is why I won’t reveal his name.

I have written two e-book novels in my loony series and his statement fits within my view of the world. We are all a bit loony.

But consider the absurdity of the statement. Shakespeare used a quill pen to write. Had the typewriter been invented during his life, would he have rejected it because only a true writer uses a quill? Old Will would have learned how to use the new tool and be thrilled not to be continually dipping his quill in ink over and over.

The quill was the tool of Will’s day. A typewriter is a tool. A PC with Word doc. is a tool. All writers are storytellers and they use the tool that more easily tells the story. And writing in Word is far easier than a typewriter that has no spell check, no grammar check, and does not need reams of typewriter paper. With Word you can revise as you write.

That being said, the experience of Word and formatting, in my case, blogs, movie reviews, and e-book novels, is far from easy. Word may be easier than the quill and the typewriter, but both Word and Cyberspace bring their own sets of problems.

And that is what led me to create a blog, one I hope you, whether a writer or not, will interact with me on, to discuss the looniness of writing in cyber world.

Speaking of spellcheck and looniness, as I wrote the previous paragraph a red line popped up under ‘looniness’ indicating it is misspelled or is not a word. But my American Heritage dictionary says otherwise.

So I hope you will join me on this journey, sharing the looniness of writing in cyber world. Quill pen anyone?

 

 

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