Why Writers Should Hire Editors

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I was reading an article recently about Donald Trump that basically said the explanation for the way he behaves is something called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Wikipedia describes the Dunning-Kruger effect as “a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is” – which basically means that he’s so stupid, he can’t recognise his own stupidity.

Now, I’m not a fan of Donald Trump pre- or post-election but I’m also not a fan of name-calling. I didn’t finish reading the article. But I was fascinated by the idea of the Dunning-Kruger effect and the article contained a link to another article in the Pacific Standard by David Dunning of Dunning-Kruger effect fame called “We Are All Confident Idiots”.

It’s a long article but it was a terribly interesting read, basically saying that we – all of us – are so afraid of appearing stupid in relation to things we aren’t knowledgeable about that instead of admitting our ignorance, we play along and hope nobody realises we have no idea what we’re talking about. Everybody’s ignorance is about something different and even traditionally smart people can suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect – after all, nobody can know everything. Those with academic smarts often lack street smarts. Those with an aptitude for writing can struggle with mathematical concepts. The right side and the left side of the brain control different abilities and most people favour one over the other. As Dunning puts it, “Because it’s so easy to judge the idiocy of others, it may be sorely tempting to think this doesn’t apply to you. But the problem of unrecognized ignorance is one that visits us all.” Continue reading

Reading Your Own Writing

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Do you ever read your own writing? Not as part of a rewriting and editing process but just for pleasure? In the last five years, I’ve written over half a million words – it may even be closer to a million – in the form of articles, blog posts, book reviews, novels and non-fiction books. And that doesn’t include all the paid writing – tenders, case studies, websites, brochures and other types of marketing copy. I can’t possibly remember it all. So sometimes I go back and read bits and pieces of my own writing.

There are a lot of books out there, I like discovering new ones and I’m not narcissistically self-indulgent so after the rewriting and editing process, I’ve never sat down and read one of my own books from cover to cover. But every now and then I’ll bring up one of my book reviews, articles or blog posts and read it through. Continue reading

What I Learned from Keeping a Writing Journal

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After I wrote a blog post on the value of keeping a writing journal, I decided to keep one while I undertook a month of intensive novel writing. In addition to the 30,000 plus words I wrote for my novel, I also wrote 10,000 plus words for the writing journal. Although I posted the journal in its entirety on my blog during October (and although I think it’s a pretty interesting read, especially considering what happened to me in the final days of the month I was keeping it), I thought I would take pity on those readers who don’t have the time to read it all and distil a few things I learned along the way. Continue reading

Things I’ve Learned about Writing from Writing Book Reviews – Part 2

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On Wednesday I posted Part 1 of the things I’ve learned about writing from writing book reviews, which included:
*There are three universal things that make a great book (plot, characters and the writing itself)
*Sometimes being great at one of those things is enough (if you do it so well that a reader is mesmerised)
*Sometimes it’s the little things that will stay with the reader (those moments that make us sigh or gasp or cry and make us want everybody else to have the same reaction)
*Don’t use writers’ tricks (because readers might not know that they’re writers’ tricks but they know they don’t like them)

Here’s a few more to round out the list. Continue reading

Things I’ve Learned about Writing from Writing Book Reviews – Part 1

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I’ve always been a big fan of the notion that writers must read (see my previous post on The Importance of Writers Who Read OR Why There Are Book Reviews on this Blog) and I’ve also discussed the concept of writers writing book reviews (see my previous post on The Review from the Top: Should Published Writers Write Book Reviews?). I read a lot and I’ve been writing book reviews for four years now. The more of them I wrote, the more I realised that I was continuing to learn about writing and having things that I’d already learned reinforced with practical examples.

So here, using excerpts from some of my book reviews, are a few things I’ve learned from writing them. Continue reading

Is there value in keeping a writing journal?

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I don’t keep a writing journal. It feels like a waste of words. But back in 2007, a writing journal was the required major assessment piece for the final subject in my master’s degree. And not just any writing journal. A writing journal consisting of “a record in about 3,000 to 5,000 words of your development as a writer with particular emphasis on the period of this unit”. (If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you would have spent the July just gone reading it.)

I really didn’t want to write a writing journal. Why use up the time and effort when I could be writing my novel? That’s certainly what I thought at the time. I wrote:

“Writing journals are a waste of time. Five thousand words spent on something I’d rather not be writing. Five thousand words that could comprise 25% of the last 20,000 words I need to write to finish my novel.” Continue reading

The Apostrophe Hall of Shame

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For over a year now, I’ve had the words “The Apostrophe Hall of Shame” on my blog post ideas board. So why haven’t I written the post until now? Not for a lack of incorrect uses of apostrophes, that’s for sure.

Actually, it’s the opposite. An abundance of not only apostrophe abuse but also poor spelling and terrible grammar consistently inflicted on the content consuming public. I’ve been so overwhelmed by bad examples that I haven’t known where to even start.

The media are particularly bad examples. Journalism was once the bastion of making sure content was written and spoken correctly. At least if the journalists weren’t getting it right, there were editors to correct their mistakes before the content went public.

Not anymore. And as Fairfax Media announces another 120 jobs to be axed in Sydney and Melbourne and their staff go on strike, I’d be concerned for the editors that remained, if I actually thought there were any. Continue reading