Episode 114B – Gary Wietgrefe – Lessons Learned

Overview

Gary and Stephen discuss using tools like Pro Writing Aid and why you shouldn’t only depend on those. Not everyone wants to hire an editor, but it helps you improve your writing in ways you may not understand at first.

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Transcript

Let’s talk a little bit on some author stuff.

So before we get going on our topic when you’re writing what do you use to write? Do you have any special software or services that you like?

[00:28:43] Gary: No, my or my, now I just use Microsoft word. I started using that what, 20, 30 years ago. And know, when it came out and it got better. Yeah yeah.

But my first books were all and my first. Four books were written on a yellow notepad. I, and I hired people to type ’em or in one case the office administrative assistant typed it, but on my other books, handwritten data charts, everything, and she was amazing typist.

[00:29:17] Stephen: Nice. Okay. And I was thinking while you were talking biking every day, have you ever looked into, or thought about text or a voice to text that you could talk and record it and something like that?

[00:29:30] Gary: Yes, I have. I’ve never done it. I’ve actually had a little phone recorder and I’ve done a few little clips, like clip notes on my phone, but it, it can maybe help some writers do it.

I, it wasn’t my choice. I would rather. Have a spreadsheet and fill in some data, which helps remind you of where you’ve been how fast you went that day, where the wind was from things like that, to refresh your memory for the stories, rather than actually talking into a reporter.

Another thing on the trip, like somebody’s gonna write a travel log. Our daughter and others success suggested a little camera on my bike or helmet that I could actually report. And yes, had I planned on doing a video afterwards. It would’ve been yeah, way more clips to go through, but I just used my cell phone and I travel along.

So some of the pictures were obviously blurry. You cut that out and that’s why you maybe only have two or three seconds to put in a YouTube video. And so that was my what’s neat about things today is your cell phone has a daytime reference daytime and location. And so if you. Writing and you’ve done a travel log like this, you have a date, you have a time that you did it, you have the location.

And so that puts you in a, you as a writer back in time, visualizing what actually happened that day. And you can explain yourself, I think, far better by having those artificial memories as I call it in my book culture.

[00:31:07] Stephen: Yeah. It is kinda scary sometimes that literally, if you just have your cell phone, how many things you can do absolutely go back to the nineties, the eighties, you didn’t have, you have kids, don’t get it.

You got your cell phone. I can take pictures. I can take videos. I can record my voice. I can see what day it is, where I am on GPS. I could write on it. I can communicate with people all on this little device. And some of the real practical things yeah, talking to somebody on the phone where we used to have to pay.

[00:31:38] Gary: 40 cents a minute for long distance calls, and now we call us Canada, Mexico for a monthly fee.

[00:31:46] Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. And the talk I mentioned I, I get parents occasionally pushing back that, oh, these things in technology they won’t last or their fads or this, that, and the other thing. And I’m like maybe a few of ’em, but I said, some of this stuff is just not going away.

And I say, so let me ask you this. When was the last time you picked up the phone and asked the operator to connect you? You

[00:32:10] Gary: know and, and, and most people uh, most younger people under 30 would not understand that concept. That’s too antiquated for ’em. And so that’s why in my books related to ancients I start with the day my grandfather was born June 30th, 1890.

Was limited inoculations just became available or vaccines wouldn’t even call that. Then of course there was no electronics or telephones or planes or vehicles. And so he lived with us until he passed away in 1976, cause he was disabled, but he had a lot of the stories about the ancients and things that I could relate several thousand years ago back to Aristotle because they didn’t change a whole lot.

You still rode a horse, you still walk. These are technology a really 20th century change things. And especially late 20th century, that’s why we relating to ancients learning as it influence the 21st century so much happened in the 20th that’ll influence the 20th century.

And it’s important. The other thing mentioned early on about this is for authors, DIDs and dots horse code da it makes a difference whether it’s a dot or a DIT, and especially when you’re trying to communicate that way as we did with Morris code. And so when you write, pay attention to each of parentheses each dip, and that it, it makes a difference on the context.

And if you’re used to using text and communicating that way, you maybe are writing in snippets and not really getting your thoughts across long term of what really trying to say the feelings you’re trying to express, and you can misplace an apostrophe and it’s often done. And it changes from plural to a singular things

[00:33:54] Stephen: like that.

And it draws people out of reading sometimes

[00:33:58] Gary: that, especially if they’re used to reading written literature and you got it. Punctuation in the wrong place you go, ah, man, why Lang gonna ever read somebody a book by that person.

[00:34:10] Stephen: It’s funny too. You mentioned the Moore code and I was just thinking that’s another app I probably can get on the phone that would flash it in Moore code or tell you the sequences.

[00:34:21] Gary: I’m sure there is. I haven’t looked for it. I haven’t used Morris code for 50 years, so right. I But back then, for example I I was in the military and so we didn’t have and I learned to type in high school on a manual typewriter, me too in the military, it was manual. And I got up to what, 52 words, a minute translating worse code.

Wow. Somehow into my fingers on a manual typewriter and people could read what I was being communicated. And so your mind is amazing if you’ve trained it the right

[00:34:55] Stephen: way. Yeah. And that’s When I wasn’t in the military, but I was in Scouts. So we learned Morris. We learned some before we learned all our knots and I can still I repeated that so many times I can still do it.

I can tie knots behind my back 30 some years later, it’s a memory. Our daughter hurt her hand in a car accident and was had it basically immobile for weeks. And she had to train her hand to even hold a glass and things like that. But when she was able to go back to the keyboard type.

[00:35:31] Gary: Type her fingers moved the keys without thinking, because it’s right. It was ingrained enough in her memory that it allowed her to hit the keys the

[00:35:41] Stephen: right way. Yeah. Yeah. And we talked about the the talk to speech to text like you, I remember typing and having to type, and you have an error and having to fix that and and now everything’s so easy and automated O

[00:35:59] Gary: autocorrect.

And that’s another thing for writers is being very careful with autocorrect because you can put the wrong word when you think you’re typing and this, any book that comes out and that’s why there’s always second editions. It seems like because there’s some error in there. And a minister was actually reading my book culture and he goes down and I ask him how, what he thought about, oh good, whatever.

And we talk about him. He goes, you did have an error in there. You wrote you meant edit and he’s put EDIC. One, I go, oh it’s just one letter can, yeah. Screw it up. And you didn’t catch it. Like proof readers. Didn’t catch it. I read it. Who knows how many times didn’t catch it.

[00:36:41] Stephen: And we were gonna talk a little bit about lessons learned learn through publishing through writing.

There is a lesson for anyone cuz I like pro writing aid, but I don’t just blanket, let it do whatever it wants. I’ve used it as a learning tool that why is it telling me this should change? And does that sentence sound right? Does it sound better? Do I like it? So there’s a lesson I would pass on is absolutely don’t take that or Grammarly or even your real life editor though.

A real life editor. Most of the time, I would say you wanna change what they recommend, but sometimes there’s a reason you have a word. So that’s my lesson learned is don’t just blanket except everything just. Use it as a learning tool

[00:37:26] Gary: and let’s go with the editors. Of course I did hire in some cases on my earlier work, my editors were like my administrative assistants, things like that.

My folks culture and learning were were hired editor and actually there’s two of them that worked on the books, but don’t automatically accept what they’re accept what they tell you because they are coming from a different standpoint and yes, they wanna make it easy to read and they wanna explain it.

So really pay attention to what they’re telling you, but don’t automatically accept their changes. It, over a period of 400 and some pages, it can change the context if you are trying to agree with them on everything. And so be very critical. Don’t just hit accept all changes on your word document.

And I got that done. It, because it’s, it will change part of what you’ve meant to say.

[00:38:21] Stephen: Yes. And, but don’t, and this is one of those things. Don’t do this, but don’t do this certain thing, but don’t think sometimes,

[00:38:29] Gary: and that’s good. It makes you think why you put it there and if you put it there for the wrong reasons,

[00:38:35] Stephen: change it.

But you gotta be careful if I would just a word of advice. If you’re a new writer, you’re just writing one thing. You’ve worked with an editor one time. I’ve heard this too, from some authors that the editor didn’t get me. I didn’t make any of the changes they suggested. That’s not a good idea either.

that’s why

[00:38:57] Gary: they’re an editor. Exactly. They’ve done this more than you have. That’s especially a good professional editor. Yes. As well as proofreader. This is their job. This is what they get paid for. And when I was in agriculture I got paid to be. Almost most of the time.

And when I was wrong, you have to work through with your editor. Why did I do it? Explain to me why you did it that way and it’s, it’ll make you a better writer, I think.

[00:39:28] Stephen: Yeah. And I’ve had the learn uh, you have to have the experience, so keep writing get more under your belt. It makes a lot more sense.

Sure. Another thing

[00:39:37] Gary: that I really want to caution writers and when you’re my age you have a different background and you’re telling stories differently. And so you can, there’s a couple of things. One is a term like you might say Oriental that’s you should say Asian now.

There’s just things that an editor will pick up that. Maybe a racial or an ethnic term that is not as appropriate now as it was 30 years ago. And that’s what a good editor will do maybe

[00:40:13] Stephen: LA comment. Oh, I was gonna say that now there’s people also specializing in sensitivity editors and politically correct editors.

And I haven’t thought about

[00:40:26] Gary: that, but unfortunately I had an editor that probably no, probably did help me along those lines.

[00:40:32] Stephen: Yeah. And it’s for good or bad, it’s how the world is changing. It’s something to be aware of.

[00:40:38] Gary: Fine. And if you’re writing your books for somebody to read after you printed them.

And you hope to have those around, as I said, my, my books published in 1989 and 90 and the agricultural world are the guide today. And so you want him to have some life. Maybe one other thing that I should mention along the lines of recommendations is when you’re hiring a proofreader you pay him so much a word or whatever, but don’t just accept a proofreader.

I, this is less a learned I probably read my book learning for, I dunno, how many drafts and I had an editor go through it, a proofread to go through it. And then my book was supposed to go, I think, on a Monday to the printers and on Thursday, I got the final back from the proofread and I go I’m gonna read through it.

So it’s 440 pages. So I start and I go, my God 1882 was 1,822. I go, what? She changed. And I realized over time that she probably disagreed with some of my premises and she sabotaged my, what I had to go through every date and time and number and make sure that it was in context and one that I missed.

I, and I proofread it critically. It made my book 10 days late to the printer. And I on Monday morning, I get back to my book producer and I say this is unacceptable. This is what happened here. Here are some pages and examples that you filed the Chicago manual on style.

And it is no way close to that manual. And so I really think she sabotaged my book. And one thing I missed, for example, of course, I had a print out of my draft and after I read the book, it would come from. It was printed. I was proud of it and thought I’d count everything. One thing I didn’t catch is she changed 40 something to four.

So it’s somebody that’s 40 something or something that’s 40. Something is not four. And so it reads wrong in the book. And it’s an error. I’ll accept because I didn’t catch it, but a proofread screwed it up. And any author cannot just rely on an editor nor should they rely just on a proof reader because.

They can mess your book up big time and it can cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

[00:43:16] Stephen: And that’s one of the benefits. It’s a little bit more work, but if you’re independent and you control it and it’s all yours, it’s your responsibility. And you have that capability of saying, yeah, I don’t accept any of this.

I’m using this other whereas you go traditional and you’re basically told here’s the editor and we’re doing this cover you don’t have as much control, which I think is what a lot of independent authors like is that control,

[00:43:46] Gary: It’s control, but at the same time be free. Don’t be so restricted that you think everything use outside sources, right?

Absolutely. Whether it’s electronic, whether it’s automated whether it’s a person actually reading and helping you. Yeah. Don’t be afraid of looking for outside. Characters, proofreaders, indexers, whatever.

[00:44:08] Stephen: And like Reidy is a great service to use for finding somebody.

And the thing is, if you don’t like who you get, you can get somebody else give a test. So what other lessons after seven books, whatever lessons have you learned

[00:44:23] Gary: Keep writing for a recommendation to authors. That’s why I’m working on a poetry book right now. And what I’ve been told is 85% of the poetry now is freestyle wide.

Most of my, I do some, but most of mine are mine. I tell stories in rhyme. I guess I use free verse it’s more of philosophical poetry. And there’s stuff now that’s called poetry. That is just really pros, shrunk down into shorter lines. And whatever you write, whether it’s poetry or whether it’s patents or whether it’s peer reviewed research, just just write and think through your processes and try to be as accurate as you can on the first draft, second draft 10th draft.

[00:45:10] Stephen: I think if I tried to write poetry I think the only thing I could handle is coming off like Dr. Seuss I would, I’m sure that’s entertaining.

[00:45:22] Gary: You could, if you could do that, you’re end of

[00:45:24] Stephen: the money. Yeah. Yeah. I love Dr or I, if I was gonna do poetry, I would love to be as good as shell Silverstein.

He was fantastic. Yes there. And I just run across the other day. My mother passed away and my mother had my grandmother’s books. And so I found a poetry book, 101 favorite poems published in 1920s and given to her, my grandma by my great aunts for before she was married in 1928.

[00:45:55] Gary: And so I read through some of the poetry from the 17 to the early 19 hundreds and or early 20th century. And it was really neat to study. I’ll say poetry that my grandma accepted as a gift for Christmas in 1928.

[00:46:14] Stephen: Wow. That’s pretty cool. So you said you had you had a book in 89 and now you’ve got a book in 2022.

What are. That’s a big difference cuz you didn’t have the self publishing the same. You didn’t have Kindle, you didn’t have the digital books. So what are some of the things that are different that you’ve had to change with your writing or change with your publishing or that throughout the years?

[00:46:37] Gary: One of the basic ones is I went from yellow note pad to type and back when the first computers come out, I go, oh, I’ll just put my book I can type. So I put my first book on discs and then, so I was changing floppy, floppy disc and you had to do this to start the program and then you added it.

And my first laptop I think was a 2 86 or something. And I, geez, I have my, a few photos now is more data than that, that than that whole computer store. And so there’s, we tend to. Use up space, I’ll say it in our phones and use up space in our computers. It’s a big waste.

And in, in book and in words, you want to use efficiency try to be more efficient. And I think I’ve gotten more efficient over time where now I type into my keyboard and it has auto, correct, which I use and things like that. And so it’s helped. I’ll call it speed the writing, but also maybe it doesn’t allow you to think through what you’re actually putting down as well, because if the faster you type, the more errors you can make, and maybe the less you are really thinking about what’s

[00:47:52] Stephen: happen.

Yeah I can see that. And for those listening that don’t understand floppy discs. Okay. Not hold a lot. You couldn’t put a whole movie, which you didn’t even have digitally because the resolution of the graphics couldn’t handle digital movies way different time.

[00:48:09] Gary: Way different time. Of course, when I went to college university, it was the computer lab had punch cards.

And so you had punch cards that you had to figure out how to punch and feed through a computer. And then that was really. A follow up as I talk about in my books of the late 18 hundreds where a a ging machine punched in holes to make a certain weave pattern and things like that.

And technology developed over time that it, it became now a automation keyboard, which the keyboard, and as I address in some of my books, the keyboard is laid out for keeping keys from crossing and getting stuck. Yeah. Yeah. And so we’re using the same inefficient layout of keyboard as we did a hundred years ago, 120 years ago.

It’s crazy that how we stick with technology, even though it’s not the most efficient,

[00:49:02] Stephen: right. I like you I took typing class. I don’t know how easy it would be to totally change the keys and retrain myself typing. That’s just way more work than I want,

[00:49:13] Gary: but is it really up to us to be retrained?

I perhaps think it’s the people enter. The typing world, I call it typing or keyboard world when they’re two and three and four years old, and you start going into school, it should be laid out for them. So that it is the most efficient, rather than teaching. ’em the most inefficient, one of the most inefficient layouts of, yeah.

Of a keyboard. It’s not, as I write about in learning, it’s not set for even small hands. Large hands, I have large hands and the, some of the keyboards are too tight, and there’s ways of making as an inventor, there’s ways of making things more

[00:49:54] Stephen: efficient.

Yeah. Agreed. And it definitely would have to take time because you’re not gonna get people our age wanting to necessarily learn a whole new keyboard layout, and it’s gonna take time for the younger people to learn it. But. They do it totally different. They use thumbs. It I’ve seen people typing whole chapters, just do

[00:50:16] Gary: True.

That’s extremely inefficient. Just people think texting is faster than Morris code and it is not it Morris code is far more efficient than the fastest texters on a phone. And there’s old technology that is extremely efficient. And we, as older people can learn and have learned, I’ve learned to use the electronic typewriter I’ve learned, use, learned to use as you have cell phone and other things that we didn’t have right.

Pretty

[00:50:46] Stephen: 40 years ago. But we do have options. That’s I guess the ultimate great thing is you’ve got options. Like you said, you started with yellow legal pad and writing it out and I’m like, oh man, I don’t know if I could ever handle that. I type now we got kids like I have a phone I never learned on a keyboard because I’ve had a phone since I was nine years old and I’ve typed this way.

That’s what I’m used to. That’s what I know they’re gonna be 50 and that’s gonna be the best way for them because that’s how they learned and grew up. But there’s options. Yeah.

[00:51:19] Gary: There’s also restrictions. Meaning your phone. That’s got two and a half, four inch screen your eyes as you age are going to not be able to read as many letters on that page as you, you did when you were maybe 15 years old.

[00:51:34] Stephen: Technology keeps changing. We’re thinking of it in terms of everything as it is now, 20 whatever, it’s not gonna be true either. No, it,

[00:51:43] Gary: it will definitely change. And. As I write in my book, culture efficiency always wins. I if you’re using your thumbs for typing on a book it’s probably not the most efficient way.

And so over time, you may wanna, whatever the technology is developing, you may wanna look for more efficient ways of transcribing your thoughts.

[00:52:08] Stephen: Definitely. Gary, let me ask you another question. I missed for your bike, your biking book. How are you marketing this?

[00:52:16] Gary: Obviously through my website I have a New York book distributor book ch.com and they distribute my books eBooks as well as paperback and hard covers.

And the daily orders I’ll say, and things like that are filled by them. Obviously my books are on Amazon and Barnes and noble and Coldwell all those types of services. But I find the, I love interaction with people. And so I love to go to like farmer’s markets or book fairs, where you actually meet people and sign your book and they have questions.

And I sell a, actually a fair amount of books that way. You have the interaction and they see my book destination north pole. And they get ready to leave and they buy culture and learning and leave destinations or full and on the table, I go I’ll give you a better deal if you get three of ’em.

[00:53:11] Stephen: Right. Nice. And I think there’s a lesson right there, cause I always hear authors well should I buy Amazon ad? Should I buy Facebook ads? And I, but I’ve heard from several authors now that have some of their best success going to the farmer’s market, setting up a table or one lady that her local concert band community band plays and she sets up a table and she’s because my book is of interest to lots of different people and there’s a lot they get, they see it, they get interested, they come up and then when I’m at the park with my daughter, they’re like, Hey, I got your book.

I read your book. And I told my neighbor Sometimes that’s what you really have to do and get started rather than what Amazon ad should I buy? It’s the human factor.

[00:54:00] Gary: Yes, the human factor. And there’s things. Lessons learned as an author lessons learned there’s authors that’ll come up to you.

I had a lady and I would guess she would be in her mid to late twenties. She said, yeah, I’ve written 15 books and I go, wow, good for you. She says, oh, they’re not like your books. And I, oh, tell me about it. And she writes Catholic short story books for very young children. She says, I found a niche that is it works for me.

I that’s what I like to write. And I said, how do you market? And you learn things from other people that come up and talk to you that you wouldn’t necessarily pick up that maybe you could probably find out on the internet, but just by taking out a Facebook ad, I’m not gonna learn them

[00:54:46] Stephen: things agreed.

And that’s the other great benefit with our publishing world today is traditionally there’s a lot of books that would never have gotten picked up and produced and put into the market. Whereas independently, you can do that. Now. That’s not to say every book is going to be a JK rallying, Harry Potter bestseller.

It won’t be, but there’s a market out there for just about everything. You just have to find them. And sometimes that means some creative marketing.

[00:55:19] Gary: Creative marketing and don’t be afraid of submitting. And I guess another lesson is don’t be afraid of submitting your books to to, to awards. I won global book award, actually took a silver in destination mark poll for global book awards for self-published author.

And I, at the same time last year I submitted my books, culture and learning and culture took third or bronze in historic studies and learning took finalist, which is like for finalist in education and reference it’s. It’s like there are so many different categories out there and my writings fit different different genres.

And explore different ones. You, as a writer might write. Fantasy fiction, but there may be, you may be actually finding you write better, some other type of fiction, or maybe even nonfiction and find a different genre. Don’t be afraid to experiment that way.

[00:56:21] Stephen: Yeah. Agreed. Absolutely.

Okay. Gary, I’ve had a really great time talking to you. I appreciate it. Thank you. I love listening to your stories about your trip. Before we go though, do you have any, we’ve talked a whole lot, but do you have any last minute advice for authors?

[00:56:37] Gary: Keep writing and don’t replace your job because even in your job, you’re learning things for a paycheck.

And if you think you’re going to make a living writing and you’re coming out of high school or college Find a different career also because it’s nice to have supplemental income and be able to pay for your coffee while you’re sitting there typing

[00:56:56] Stephen: at night. Agreed. Great. All right. Gary, thank you very much for taking the time.

Talk to me today.

[00:57:03] Gary: Appreciate it, Steve, for having me on.

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