One of the best parts of an author platform is making new connections that turn into friends. Such was the case with fellow word nerd, Mark Schultz, of Word Refiner. The Weight of Words, found in my Writing Toolbox, is all about the complexities of words. I believe this is what caught Mark’s eye and started the conversation between us. With that being said, it just made sense to feature Mark and Word Refiner on my blog. Without further ado, I’m pleased to introduce Mark Schultz and his homonym-sniffing sidekick, Grizz.
Hello and welcome! Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I have been married for over forty years to my wife (she is a keeper). We have three kids, girl-boy-girl, who are now ‘adulting’ quite well, and three beautiful granddaughters who we love and see frequently.
What has your experience been?
I am a journeyman sheet metal worker and a journeyman HVAC service technician. I work outdoors a great deal and love it most of the time. I had nearly twenty years of experience in retail before I launched into construction. I like helping people.
Did your work experience lead to the creation of Word Refiner?
No, but my love of reading led me in that direction. I have been a super reader all of my life. Reading is one of my favorite things to do. During my college years, I worked as a proofreader for a firm of consulting engineers, proofing specifications and contract documents. This was in the dark ages before the Internet, before computers, cell phones, and calculators. The new exciting thing was correction paper for a typewriter. That is the only experience in the industry. But I was alerted to the fact that I was really good at finding all types of spelling errors, including homonyms, typographical errors, missing words, misplaced words, and multiple words. I was better at it than everyone else in the department.
How did you develop your passion for words/spelling?
I read some books, then I read some more books, and more books, and … you get the idea. I have read many thousands of books in my life. In college or at work I had three books I was reading at the same time: one for home, one on the bus, and one at school or work. I read very widely as a boy and an adult. I was very bored growing up on a small, non-working farm. I had only my younger sisters and baby brother to play with. I devoured encyclopedias and spent many happy hours in a twenty pound dictionary. Relatives sent me books for birthdays and holidays. I read my parents magazines and loved Reader’s Digest. I read very widely and loved every minute of it, no matter how many times I had to go to the dictionary. I also checked many books out of the school and public library.
So, you’re an avid reader? What do you enjoy reading?
At the moment, I am in the middle of Paul Cude’s Bentwhistle the Dragon, Volume One, in between book reviews. I am reading this for fun and have found it quite enjoyable. My favorite genres are sci-fi and fantasy, but I have come to appreciate good writing in whatever genre. I have read some great cozy murders, historical fiction, and romantic stories.
When did you decide to create Word Refiner?
Many years ago, a friend was writing a book. He sent me his tenth draft. It was typewritten and double-spaced. He liked my suggestions a lot, and I proofed for him for many years after that. I started looking for other authors and found it very hard to meet them. I had the concept in mind for a long time, but could not connect with very many authors. I advertised on Craig’s List for several years with a little bit of success. I found it really hard to connect with authors on Facebook and some other social media portals. When I looked into Twitter, I realized I had struck pay dirt.
How does a client contact you?
I can be contacted on Twitter of course: @wordrefiner. I can also be reached at my website: Word Refiner, and by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How does Word Refiner work? What is the process?
While it is detailed on my website, here are the basics. I offer a free evaluation of a manuscript whether fiction or nonfiction. My skill is in spelling, so I tell a client that I can provide the best value after all the editing and rewriting is done. When the client thinks the book is ready to be published, I should be the last set of fresh eyes. I ask for a section from the middle of the book, two to three thousand words. I go through it and provide the estimate based on the density of errors in the sample. My pricing is based on word count and starts at $3.00 per thousand words; as the number of errors increases, so does my price. If we agree on the project, they send me the entire book in a format compatible with MS Word 2013.
What does a client receive from you?
I use the commenting feature in Word; I do not make any changes in the book. There is a sample of what that looks like on my website: Learn More. If I find a weird formatting error, such as a line cut off in the middle and moved down, I will fix that for continuity reasons. Otherwise, I believe in a hands-off approach. I want the author to be able to see exactly what they wrote and consider my suggestions. If any particular suggestion is not liked, then no harm is done. While I am not a full editor, I do offer suggestions for readability, plot points, and technical details where warranted. Many authors have been very grateful for my suggestions. I know a little about a lot of things. I am a super reader and the Hyper-speller. I know my strengths and don’t stray too far from that sweet spot. When I send the book back, I have changed the name of the file. I keep the original file as received for safety purposes.
Do you specialize in one type of book: fiction or non-fiction? Do you work on promotional materials, programs, brochures?
I can do all of the above and more. My specialty is words. If it has words I can read, I am there. I am also cognizant of the differences that can exist in British English and Australian English. I have clients in many parts of the world.
Can you tell us some of the titles you’ve worked on?
I have worked on quite a few books. The full list is at Books We Have Refined. I would like to mention the books of one of my favorite authors, Diane Munier: Darnay Road, Deep In The Heart of Me, Finding My Thunder, and most recently, Bayah and the Ex-con. The first three were done post-publication.
Any favorite words?
My favorite group of homonyms is rite, write, right, and wright. It is the longest group of homonyms I know. I would love to find more of equal or greater length. I also heard a phrase on a BBC production: “insalubrious morass” was a bit of dialog and stuck in my ear. I relished the sound of it and feel in my mouth. It means an unhealthy, swampy area.
Word(s) you see misspelled most often?
From and Form come to mind first. Their, there, and they’re are also very common. There are so many homonyms that can be mixed up, and typos are created so easily. I know because my fingers are pretty sloppy on the keyboard.
Is Word Refiner your dream job?
Yes! Getting paid to read books is my dream job!
How do you see Word Refiner growing?
I am one person; I have not found anyone that can do what I do for the price I charge. My rates are very reasonable.
So this is a solo operation?
It is the three of us: me, myself, and I. Let’s not forget Grizz. Call it 1 ½.
Is there any truth to the rumor that Grizz has 51% controlling interest in the business?
I have defeated his proxy attempts a couple of times now. I am not sure he has given up.