nitpicker’s guides

Nitpickers Guide 1993The day I came up with the idea for the Nitpicker’s Guide, I told my wife, “I’m going to spend the next year watching every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and I’m going to write down everything they do wrong.” And she said, “That’s nice, dear.”

At the time, we had concluded the the buyout on the music notation system I wrote so I didn’t really need to work for a while, and she knew that. Even still, it was an odd idea. And, there were plenty of people along the way that said it wouldn’t work. There were people “in the know” that said the title was wrong, too negative.

Classic Guide 1994It took me months to convince Steve Ettlinger that it was a good idea and it took him months to find Jeanne Cavelos but those two were the only ones that mattered.

And so, an unknown, unpublished author came up with a little idea and put together an odd book that sold 70,000 copies its first year in print. Which is not too shabby for a non-fiction book about a television series.

There were five guides published in all.

The Nitpicker’s Guide for Next Generation Trekkers was published in November 1993.

The Nitpicker’s Guide for Classic Trekkers came next in November 1994.

The Nitpicker’s Guide for Next Generation Trekkers, Part 2 followed in November 1995.

The Nitpicker’s Guide for Deep Space Nine Trekkers appeared in 1996.

And The Nitpicker’s Guide for X-files in 1997.

Next Gen 2 Guide 1995As mentioned elsewhere, I was working on a guide for Star Wars when my writing career blew up.

(I’m sure I still have the first 100 pages of that guide around somewhere. If I could ever find them I would self-publish it.)

The really fun part of the guides was hearing from their readers. By the time it was all said and done, I received over 10,000 letters. Often, they would start with, “What have you done to do me?! I can’t watch anything anymore without nitpicking it.”

I knew exactly what they meant. Nitpicking is contagious because it allows you to “peek behind the curtain.” The creators of television shows and movies do a masterful job of of crafting an alternate reality but they aren’t perfect. And they never will be.

DS9 Guide 1996Because of that, there will always be nits. Little anomalies that are easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. But when you see them, all of a sudden, your mind opens and you see not only the nit but the cameraman and the director and all those people that hover on the edge of their reality and work so hard to hide. Often I would watch a scene half a dozen times before I found the reflection of the microphone in a mirror or the vase that turns back and forth between camera angles.

I’d love to tell you that the guides are still available in print, but I have seen them in used bookstores and on the internet, check with or or . Be forewarned though: they might be “well loved.”

X-File Guide 1997Back in the days when I would attend Star Trek conventions, more often than not, the books I signed held the marks of a great deal of use: dog-eared pages, tattered covers. I took that as a high compliment.

On the other hand, some of the Guides are on the Kindle now! (Thanks Mike B for the nudge to update this!)

Some have asked if I’m ever going to write another guide. While I’ll never say “never,” I find it highly unlikely. As you can see from the menu on the left, I have plenty of ideas of my own.

In fact, I have no doubt that if I could somehow start writing fulltime today, I could easily spend the rest of my life churning out novels. So…in all likelihood, the guides will remain a fond memory of a cherished time in my life.

Sometime, just for grins, if you are interested in seeing what these guides have birthed, go to and type the phrase “nitpicker’s guide” (make sure you include the double-quotes) and remember that–as far as I know–before the Nitpicker’s Guides on this page appeared, the phrase “nitpicker’s guide” didn’t exist in the global lexicon.

If you do google it, you’ll find the internet enjoys the term.

As I’m fond of saying, I know I didn’t invent the practice of nitpicking television, movies and every other form of entertainment but I certainly popularized the sport!

Having done that, it’s time for me to be a creator and see what nits others can find in my work! (And that is as it should be.)

Happy Nitpicking!

8 comments on “nitpicker’s guides

  1. While you may have coined the term “nitpicker’s guide”, the term before that was blooper and amounted to the same thing… with the nitpicker’s guide being a catalog of bloopers.

    You mentioned to write in nitpicks, and even nitpicks OF nitpicks, so here is one that I’ve found. In your guide to “The Undiscovered Country” you mentioned the yellow transporter beam beaming over the two conspirators (or in this case pawns…) that to Gorkon’s ship to kill him, and questioned that the Federations’ beam is blue, which would have made sense if they were using their transporter, and if it WERE Klingon, why would they kill the transporter chief the second they arrived? This is not actually a nit. There was a THIRD and Klingon ship… Chang’s!… that could have done the beaming back and forth. The real question here is why use a transporter AT ALL, since they seem to be able to beam from point to point without the necessity of a pad, at least at one end of the transaction? In fact, by this point, since they can do that, a room dedicated to transporting seems unnecessary. The equipment could be housed elsewhere, and people could beam in and out from wherever is convenient.

  2. I have been re-watching Star Trek Voyager my favorite Star Trek series. I have all your other Nitpicker’s Guides but have never seen the Voyager guide. Was there a reason why you never wrote one?

  3. There definitely was a reason I never did a Voyager guide. 😉 I was working on a Star Wars Guide in 1998 when my writing career blew up. There had been some lawsuits in the industry. (They had nothing to do with the Guides.) And all the publishers fled. My agent tried in vain for many months to find a publisher but no one wanted to take them on. They were fun while it lasted, though!

  4. Hey there. I was going through my old Nitpicker’s guides. I was reading the entry on The Best of Both World’s, and in the “Plot Oversights” section you write “….It assumes that Earth had some foundational role in the Federation, instead of simply joining it when humans came of age.”. The guide was published in 1993, and by that point it had been firmly established that Earth was a founding member of the Federation and that the Federation was founded in San Francisco (TNG ep 5×7 “The Outcast, TNG 5×19 “The First Duty” and it was firmly established throughout TNG that both Starfleet and the Federation were headquartered on Earth ). I’m sure plenty of people have pointed that out in the 21 years since the book was published, but I just had to bring it up.

  5. If you ever do decide to write another guide I can assure you I will be a receptive reader! I am a huge Star Trek fan and would love to see more guides. The introduction of Section 31 in DS9 opened up a lot of new and interesting realms to explore. It could explain why Picard de-cloaked in front of the warbird in “The Pegasus”; to keep Section 31 from sweeping the whole thing under the rug. It would also explain a lot more bad behavior on the part of Starfleet Command (Admiral Kennely from “Ensign Ro,” Admiral Leighton from “Paradise Lost,” Admiral Daugherty in “Star Trek: Insurrection”…). I loved the original guides; thank you for writing them.

    • Thanks for the kind words about the Guides! Glad you enjoyed them. At this point in my life, I don’t see myself ever writing any more but they sure were fun to do.

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