Tag Archives: Proofreading

How Marlon Brando’s tie nearly ruined my short story

I was preparing a short story for an international competition in England. That means proofreading letter by letter, comma by comma. What fun! I would let the story sit  a couple of days, then look at again. this went on for about two weeks, I corrected a few things, added more detail, deleted some sentences, added others.

Then one day something caught my eye. I had two characters, both men, both wearing a red tie. That will not do. Granted one was dead, one was living, but unless there is an allusion, or some connection, some reason for the two red ties, then get rid of of one of them.

The reason is quite simple. Variety. A reader can spot the fact that two men are wearing red ties and think you-I mean me- is sloppy. I was.

Writers can fall into patterns. I blame the red tie on Marlon Brando. I saw “Last Tango in Paris” and loved the scenes in which he was wearing a black sports jacket, gray slacks, a blue and white stripped shirt with-yes, a red tie. It was the only time in my life I was influenced my fashion in a movie. I purchased a perfectly dashing black sports jacket in London, bought gray slacks back home in America, the shirt and the tie. Sadly I never got to tango in Paris though. But I looked sharp.

So I still have the idea of a red tie in my head. That is something I must be watchful of. (Yes I know I ended a sentence with a preposition, but that is not a hard rule as any grammar text, like “Fowler’s Modern English” will testify, though not without some hue and cry from the prosecution).

So you as a writer must be aware of certain details you fall in love with, whether colors, apparel, facial descriptions, anything that might trip you up like two red ties. Be aware of subtle ways you repeat yourself, even in dialogue, settings, anything at all.

I don’t know if I used a red or brown tie for Giants pitcher Red Ames-it was his lucky tie-in “Loonies in the Dugout,”  but if you read it you will know.





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Is writing short stories different than novels

I have discovered an odd thing, something I can’t explain, and perhaps it pertains only to my writing.

Recently I have been working on three short stories while I let my novel percolate (I actually witnessed it while it wasn’t looking). Of the two novels I have written I found that I had to cut material, especially in my debut e-novel, “Loonies in the Dugout.” I cut, if I recall correctly, a few thousand words. And no it didn’t hurt. The book is better because of the cuts.

In the three short stories I am working on I find in each case I am adding scenes, adding description, fleshing things out. I have read where many writers have said when writing to get the bones down and don’t look back; that you can add, expand, clarify, and make sense of what you are saying later. That is the case with my short stories. I knew how the story would begin, how it would end, what was needed to get me from A to Z.

When it was finished, it sat while my mind cleared itself. When I returned a couple of weeks later Is aw I needed to add details about the main setting, namely a theatre where the entire story took place. I had not described how the theatre looked and since it was vital to the story I had to make the theatre come alive a bit, to give it color, personality.

In the other two stories I also add to add in order to enhance the mood among other reasons. But this does not happen in writing my e-novels. I did add a final chapter to my second e-novel, but that was due to the original ending being-to me unsatisfying. When I realized why the ending was wrong, I added a chapter which made both the next to last chapter and the novel as a whole much better. But before that I did a lot of cutting in the earlier parts of the story.

I don’t the reason why there is a difference in my approach to writing short stories as opposed to novels, but as long as I rewrite, edit, and make better, it does not matter. The end result is all that matters.

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Writers should type slower and read slower

I have discovered why I was making numerous-and I mean numerous- typos when I wrote and it has to do with my brain-and possibly your brain as well. My problem is that my mind works too fast, or should say worked too fast, because I have slowed things down.

What I mean is that when I typed my brain saw an entire phrase or entire sentence and my fingers could not keep pace with the speed that my brain was pouring out words like a monsoon in June. Now when I type I see one word at a time-though there is a long line of subjects, verbs, nouns, and assorted other cousins behind the first word, they do not get lost, nor do they leave to return when the line is shorter. At first the slow pace was frustrating, but with practice the pace picked up and I see the keyboard better and the letters I must stroke come quickly, but not at the break neck speed that created typos so ridiculous that some were not translatable.That is scary believe me. I can’t write long hand because my handwriting looks like something carved on a stone in ancient Egypt in need of a cryptologist.

Reading slower is also good for another reason. I do read, or try to read, fast when reading a book, just not my own. (For some reason I can read a book on Kindle faster than a hard copy, real book.) As a writer when you proofread you must read slow; I repeat you must read slow. Chances are the entire paragraph is set in your mind, perhaps the entire chapter if not the entire book are embedded in your mind and when you read the page your mind sees what is set in your mind, not what is on the page. Your brain must read slow, letter by letter, comma by comma. It is too easy to miss if you read fast.

Thanks for reading. I hope you did not read the blog to fast.



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My confession as to why my novel is delayed

I have trouble making decisions. I should have finished my third novel a year ago. I want to get it right of course and therein lies the problem. I have trouble deciding what’s what.

Case in point, I have read conflicting opinions on how frequently one should shower, so I wait until the police come to my door complaining that neighbors thought there was a dead body in the house. They always hold their nose when I answer the door and once a cop pulled a gun on me; later apologizing, saying he had seen too many episodes of “The Walking Dead.”

On the occasion when I have showered-thanks to police recommendation-I have trouble deciding which restaurant to take my date. It is too difficult to decide between Le Maison, an expensive, but well worth it, French restaurant or the local DQ. In the end my indecisiveness means no date and eating mac and cheese alone with the TV off because there are too many shows to choose from that look interesting. How can one choose between QVC’s adult diaper sale and “The Muppets in Nebraska” Hallmark special.

Life is confusing. Coffee is bad for you. Two years later it is good for you. Grains are good for you-except the New York Times bestselling book saying no they aren’t. A glass of wine a day is good for your heart. But not for your appendix. Dairy products are bad for you, except for those who say they are good for you.

Therein lies the problem. Irregardless is a legitimate word in some dictionaries, but not in others. It should be regardless, or irrespective, never irregardless. Personally I don’t like the word and never use it. I have made that decision.

But proofreading is a bugaboo. Where do the commas go? Can I end a sentence with a preposition? It is considered bad grammar, but not in every sector of the grammarian world. There are too many things I can’t fathom, never will apparently. But I will strive to finish my novel before . . .

Sorry I must go. The police are banging on my door. 


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Spell Czech the writers worst enemy

Most writers believe their worst enemy is a bad review, but it is  not. I have one bad review-the person had trouble reading the last chapter, but no matter. I went to new Orleans and found a Cajun voodoo priestess who took care of that person for me.  I will not reveal her name or what she did. I am sure you understand why. The real enemy is spell check. We know the problems with spell check, but it can not be stressed enough.

The computer is smart, but not smart enough to know what you mean and the grammar is suggests is sometimes laughable. I bring this problem up because even professional writers in their Kindle eBooks have misspellings.  It is easy to miss certain words when you don’t see the obvious red squiggly line underneath a word when you look at the screen. Even during an edit words can be missed. Two words ‘there’ and ‘their’ can be a problem and ‘are and ‘our’ are another. And in the first paragraph above I found the word ‘stresses’ and it should be ‘stressed’. I found it when I proofread.

The problem during an edit is that the eyes read faster than the mind can process and ‘there’ can be missed for ‘their’. During an edit it is easy to scan. You know what you wrote so the mind is familiar, it does not give it a second thought-just like a programed spell check. I hate to point this out, but the only way to catch some of the misspellings is not to read, but proofread and that is a pain in the hemorrhoid.

In proofreading you do not read the word, you look at the letters. It is a slow, and I do mean slow process. Slugs move faster. But in the end you do want the work to look professional, so you take the pain.

I read the paragraph first, then a second time a read a sentence, then read the word. If you have a method, a process, you find yourself inching faster just a wee bit. I would also point out that regular books published by New York publishers sometimes have errors in them. That means the author, the editor, and the proofreader, all missed the word. Mistakes happen, but we should work to eliminate as many as we can. Readers will catch those darn things you know and we need not subject them to that. And yes, I am sure I have made some. If you find any in my books feel free to point them out to me.


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The dangers of research for fiction writers

It matters not if you write period fiction or contemporary there is research to do. The two e-novels I wrote were period, one set in New York of 1911, the other in Los Angeles of 1922. I used period maps of the cities to make sure the streets were the same, and also to make sure where the characters were headed was the right direction. If say, I want a man to go from the Braddock Hotel north to the Polo Grounds, I must be sure where everything is. When I write a car chase in Los Angeles, I needed to know the streets so as not to muck things up.

That sort of research is easy, as is researching for night clubs, restaurants, and speak-easies in 1922 Los Angeles and Hollywood. I can also research costume, cars and so on. But one thing  a writer can not do is fall in love with research. I find it fun because I love culture and history and the 1920’s is a fascinating time.

I am mistaken of course. A writer can and should fall in love with research, but do not include everything you find. Do not make it stand out like a BiG tYPo.

What you uncover should be used to give verisimilitude to the story and characters. The characters and story are in the foreground, the research in the background. Of course there can be an exception. In “Loonies in Hollywood” a flapper by the name of Clancy picks up a friend from the police station. She has a new car, an expensive and rare car. Her friend Chet admires the automobile and Clancy points out all the salient things about the car that anyone with such a fancy rig would do. But her prattling on about the car and the way she talks is character revelation. It has been mentioned that she is the daughter of a rich banker, a bit spoiled, but a lovely carefree flapper. So by her talking about a Heine-Velox costing $25,000 that her father bought her as a bribe to go to college I am showing character, not love of research.

Remember a writer creates a picture with words; a writer does not create a mini-Wikipedia to impress.

This is a link to my books on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38


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Writing a good book description for your book


Every writer, whether self published hardcopy or self published e-book, needs a book description.  It does not matter how well you write, or how interesting your story, a book description is your pitch to catch the readers eye, to get the reader to buy your book.  Rather than my telling what you need to do, let me quote from Maria Murname from Creative Space.

Maria lists three rules to follow. They are:

  1. Show, don’t tell: Much like an online-dating profile, if you toot your book’s horn too much, it’s a turnoff. If your book is funny, don’t write, “This is a laugh-out-loud story!” Instead, write something funny to describe it. Another downside to the overselling approach is that if the reader doesn’t laugh out loud when reading your book, he/she is going to feel cheated. (This unfortunately has happened to me several times, which is why I decided to write this post.)
  2. Don’t go into too much detail: When I’m perusing potential books to read, I want to know what the story is about, period. I don’t need to know all the details, or all the minor characters’ names, or exactly how the book ends. None of that matters to me before I begin reading it. Plus, when my eyes start glazing over because there are simply too many words in one massive, overly descriptive paragraph, I question how good the writing in the actual book is, and I usually move on without making a purchase.
  3. Watch your grammar and spelling: As in the above example, if the book description is well written, I assume the book is well written. The reverse is also true, so make sure you don’t have any grammar or spelling errors in your description.

It is something you should check from time to time. Just because you have written a book description you think is good does not mean you should not return and ask yourself whether you can I make it better? I have  rewrote mine on Amazon a couple of times and will probably do so again. It is as important as any story you may write.

My descriptions are at the Amazon link below and if you think I can improve them, please them let me know. Thanks.




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