Word Refiner Extraordinaire

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: wordrefiner@yahoo.com.

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.

Baring My Writer’s Soul – Part 20

writers-soul-20I’m two years into my author platform with my third-year anniversary coming up this August. I have a nice quantity of followers on my blog which is the most important part of my platform as far as I’m concerned because it reflects me most personally. I greatly appreciate the people who take the time to view, and hopefully read, my blog.

For this reason, I maintain quality posts that I trust my followers find interesting. These posts include samples of my writing, stories about my family life to give people a feel for who I am, and articles and recipes promoting my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles. I try to post on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and I revisit these posts based on a follow-up schedule of one week, one month, and two months. Then there is my presence on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Why do I mention all this? Because once again I find myself questioning the benefit of the author platform. I went in search of articles, statistics, and/or facts that would answer my question, and here is what I found. Keep in mind that I’m interested in finding info as it relates to the fiction writer.

Per Jane Friedman’s July 25, 2016, post, A Definition of Author Platform, in answer to the question Do you need a platform to get published?:

It depends. If you’re a fiction writer, no.  Fiction writers should focus on crafting the best work possible. That’s not to say a platform is unwelcome if you have one, but an agent or publisher will make a decision first based on the quality of your manuscript and its suitability for the current marketplace.

I was quite pleased to know Mrs. Friedman believes the most important part of our careers is to write good fiction. As anyone who writes knows, that doesn’t always come easily. I try to write 1000 words a day, but life has a way of crashing in on my writing that sometimes makes this difficult. Still, I press on without making pathetic excuses, and if I don’t meet my word goal, I hope I come away with at least one brilliantly written sentence for the day.

Here’s the thing, though: writing three quality posts for my blog takes quite a lot of time. True, they vary in word count, and sometimes I can squeeze three posts out of my 1000 words a day goal, sometimes more, sometimes less. I devote Sundays to writing my posts. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling that the blog is taking away valuable time from my other writing.

Coming up with three different blog posts is like having three different battle fronts open on top of the one for my novel, the one for querying, and the one for maintaining the other aspects of my platform. That’s a whole lot of fighting going on which leads to stress and fatigue. It can negatively affect my frame of mind when I approach my novel. In short, there are too many irons in the fire to allow for good writing on one project.

Then I came across statistics for the fiction writer, who is given the grace of shooting for lower stats than the non-fiction writer for whom platform is crucial, on the Writer Unboxed site in the article Building Your Writer Platform — How Much is Enough?, and I almost had a heart attack. These are loosely defined targets that the fiction writer is to aim for:

Blog Page Views Notable: 20,000/month

Twitter Followers Notable: 5,000

Newsletter Subscribers Notable: 5,000

Public Speaking Appearances Notable: Speaking to 1,000 people (total) a year

Sales of Previous Self-Published Books Notable: 2,000+ for fiction

So, now I’m curious to know if my platform is enough. Luckily, a few agents addressed the question of readiness within the same article, and I would direct you to Writer Unboxed to read them as they are quite lengthy. I’m also not sure if the agents are speaking to non-fiction or fiction writers, but in either case, I’m wondering if an author platform is a good and/or just measure of how worthy a fiction writer’s work is for publication.

I don’t want to live in fear of dropping stats on any portion of my platform, and more than that, I don’t want to offend my followers in any way that would result in losing them. And yet, so much of what I read and hear from fellow writers, whether traditionally, self-, or pre-published, is that it all comes down to how much money a writer will make for a publisher. Worse, if sales are poor, the publisher has a tendency to place the blame on the writer. Does that mean I won’t get looked at until I achieve a certain level of stats on my author platform thus guaranteeing big sales for a publisher?

Perhaps the question I should be asking is: what’s being done to make writers’ lives more conducive to writing and less stressful? I found some relief in the latter portion of Mrs. Friedman’s article, and although she was addressing non-fiction writers, I believe the same clarifications apply to fiction writers when she expounds upon What platform is NOT, What activities build author platform?, and Platform building is not one size fits all.

At the heart of this matter in my quest for publication is the desire to make a connection with other writers who may be experiencing the same concerns. I don’t want to feed the misery loves company aspect of this busines. Rather, I would love to hear from people on how they view the issue and how they are positively dealing with it.  But here is another portion of my anxiety regarding my author platform: why don’t followers engage? In a world where people love to give their opinion on anything and everything, writers are asking, begging even, for people to leave feedback and input, reviews and comments.

In closing, I agree yet again with Jane Friedman from her above-mentioned article when she says:

It rips me apart to hear very new writers express confusion and anxiety about their platform, especially when they have not a single book or credit to their name. Well, it’s not a mystery why platform is so confusing when you may not yet know who you are as a writer.  First and foremost, platform grows out of your body of work—or from producing great work. Remember that.  It’s very difficult, next to impossible, to build a platform for work that does not yet exist.

Baring My Writer’s Soul – Part 6

untitled (8)I struggled a bit with chapter two of Page After Page because I couldn’t relate to the exact experiences Heather Sellers presented, and her advice seemed to contradict other things I’ve been told, most specifically regarding social media. While she didn’t address social media directly, what she proposed would require a noticeable change in how I handled the various aspects of my author platform.

Rather than allow my resistance to flare, I decided to go forward with closing the gap between my writing life and the rest of my life because I am a writer, plain and simple, whether or not I’m published, all the time, period. I’ll do this by drawing on all the positive writing and reading experiences, thus quelling my fears and doubts. This will be an ongoing process for me. At least I know how to seek out and find quality input.

As for conserving my energy to write, that’s going to require a step back from social media. What an unusual request when we live in an era that is all about social media. How can I build/grow/maintain my author platform if I’m not tweeting, posting, honking, and tooting my own horn, shouting, “Hey, look at me! See what I’m writing?” Whose advice do I take?

Let’s consider the point Ms. Sellers makes when she says that talking about writing all the time means you aren’t actually writing. That’s true. Then there are all the stats on social media to gauge how well we’re liked, or not, which can really make or break one’s confidence. I decided to trust Ms. Sellers and withdrew to a safe distance.

The first couple of days felt as if I didn’t have anything to do. I picked up my pen and wrote, and I listened to the voices of the characters in the book I’m reading, and I treated myself to two new writing books, and I read, and I wrote, and I scratched out what I had written, and I listened to the instruction presented in my new writing books, and I wrote some more.

The best part is I don’t have to tell you what I’m writing; that’s for me. What I will share with you is that Page After Page, Story Trumps Structure, and Fiction Writing Master Class have been phenomenal in breaking through my resistance and writer’s block.

The positive momentum kept me moving forward. In addition to my writing group, I joined a book group online and at the library, and I will be attending two “Meet Your Local Author” events. I know this is going to further enhance my writing because I’m all about the tactile experience.

Never fear, though. I shall not abandon my blog. I’m just tweaking the focus to build a community of reading, writing, interactive friends whose presence in my life goes far beyond that of just follower.

Write Happy!

Baring My Writer’s Soul – Part 1

untitled (5)“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.”  Virginia Woolf

I’m not an inspirational author, but I do find that there is a large amount of room in my writing for inspiration. Most specifically, I’m looking for the kind of inspiration that comes from giving my writing life over to God.

Recently, I’ve been discouraged with trying to balance my non-writing life with my writing life. Writing became a chore, and I lost the joy of creating. Still, I pushed myself to write because I believed I absolutely had to. Or maybe I didn’t.

There are a lot of people in life who will gladly define for you what it means to be a real writer. I’m tired of trying to force myself into their labels and definitions much the same as I’m tired of trying to force my writing into their preferred methods and styles. I needed to find what worked best for my life and my writing.

When I stepped back and prayed, the miraculous occurred. The return of my happiness was the first, most noticeable change. Second was the disappearance of the guilt I experienced for not writing and/or maintaining my author platform every minute of the day. In fact, I haven’t written for two days, and I finally spied my writing muse peeking around the corner to see if it’s safe for her and my enthusiasm to return.  Keep in mind I’m no quitter; I just needed a break.

Then I reprioritized my life into God first, family second, work third which led to harmony. I reduced the real distraction of social media and welcomed back my responsibilities of homemaking.  That last point may sound old fashioned to some people, but by completing my family duties, I cleared my mind to focus when I needed to write.

Lastly, I’m working on ridding my mindset of the lie that I’m racing against some unknown, unseen deadline to be successful or die in unfulfilled misery. When I did that, my overbearing sense of competitiveness and envy withered. I realized that success and happiness is not the same thing, and they rarely go hand in hand.

By allowing myself to step away, I’ve gained a new perspective on writing and life in general. I already am a successful writer, even if I just write for myself, because I am a happy writer. How do I know I’m on the right track? Since these revelations came to me over the past few days, I received encouragement in the form of Tweets, posts, and blog articles such as the one by Jennifer Slattery, When Discouragement Swallows Your Strength, via Castle Gate Press.

It could be a coincidence, but coincidence is God’s way of letting us know He’s still in charge.

Write Happy!

Why Aren’t You Following My Blog?

In the spirit of the attached article, I would like to ask my Facebook friends and Twitter Community: “Why aren’t you following my blog!”

Authors are required to promote themselves long before they ever publish a book. Long before final revisions, query letters, and agent searches, authors must “sell” their “product” to a potential audience. I can tell you that most authors/writers do NOT have a degree or background in marketing. This makes the task much more daunting. With the advent of social media, authors can build a “platform” to accomplish the above-mentioned tasks. This is where you come in.

I’m offering each of you the opportunity to join me from the ground up. My promise to you is free, quality writing delivered straight to your inbox. Most of you are already perusing various social media sites. With my blog, you won’t have to search for high-quality content in various places. My blog features short stories, non-fiction blogging about the quirks of family life, and interesting articles used while researching my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles. I also promise to not bombard your inbox with chain e-mails, offensive jokes, pictures of my kid and pets, or boring accounts of what I ate for breakfast.

In closing, thank you for your support during my journey from pre-published author to New York Times Best-Selling Author. ~ HL Gibson

“If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get”

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