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

An Interview with Louise Truscott by Louise Truscott

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If you’re wondering why I’m interviewing myself, you obviously haven’t read my post from Tuesday (Can’t Get Anyone to Interview You About Your Book? Interview Yourself!). Read it first and then hopefully this won’t seem quite so self-indulgent.

How long have you been writing?
I don’t know where the time has gone but it’s been over twenty-five years now. I started, like all children, writing adorable yet cringe-worthy stories for my primary school English class, progressed to angsty poetry in high school and by Year 12, I was writing a novella. When I started university, I moved into writing romance. I was so sure that I was going to be the next queen of Australian romance fiction. But I found the confines of the genre very limiting. I didn’t want to write one thing, I wanted to write everything. Continue reading

Can’t Get Anyone to Interview You About Your Book? Interview Yourself!

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As part of the announcement of the release of my latest book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing, I sent an email to the alumni group of Swinburne University where I studied and graduated with a Master of Arts in Writing. I’d done the same thing when I published Project December: A Book About Writing and they’d been kind enough to include a mention of it in their e-newsletter and a link to where it could be purchased. I hoped they’d do the same this time.

Instead, I got an email asking if I’d be interested in being interviewed and profiled as part of a series on their past students. I thought, “Why not?”.

But once I’d agreed to do it, I did what I always do, which is panic. Sometimes I feel like I have proverbial foot-in-mouth disease (not literal foot-in-mouth disease – gross!) and am prone to say things I shouldn’t. I aim for witty and end up coming off like a weirdo. It’s why I’m a writer, after all. I like having the chance to revise. And revise. And revise again. Speaking off the cuff doesn’t give you that chance.

To keep myself calm and to try to prepare for an interview where I didn’t know exactly what the questions were going to be, I decided to attempt to pre-empt what might be asked and come up with answers. That way, if they did come up, I’d have something that didn’t make me sound like a person on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum.

Yes, essentially, I interviewed myself. Continue reading

The Benefits of a Goodreads Profile

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I’ve been helping an internet and marketing ignorant author about thirty years older than me in the lead up to his book being published and he’s also been receiving moral support from another published author roughly his age. He’s paying a professional to put together a small website and I suggested I set up a Goodreads author profile for him so that when the book is released I – and whoever else is so inclined – can post a review. He agreed.

I signed him up, added a picture and posted his About Me text that we’ve been working on for the website. Then, since I’m on Goodreads as well, I connected with him as a friend. And knowing the name of the other author who’s supporting him, I looked her up on Goodreads in an attempt to connect the two of them.

But when I found her profile, it was empty. She’s there – her book was quite successful and has an average rating of 3.46 – but there’s no picture, no author bio, no other information except that she was the author of the book listed. I was surprised. I went back to my friend and told him what I’d found, suggesting he contact his friend and let her know her profile was there and that she could claim it. He told me she was as clueless as he was when it came to technology and being online and that he doubted she would be interested. Fair enough. She clearly doesn’t have someone like me to help her out the way he has me. Continue reading

The Unusual and Irrational Obsessions of Writers

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Miranda Margulies: We can get the Times to write something. Or that nut from the Observer.
Kathleen Kelly: Wait, what… what nut from the Observer?
Miranda Margulies: Frank something? The one who’s so in love with his typewriter. This is just the sort of thing that would outrage him!
You’ve Got Mail

Most writers have unusual obsessions. For Frank Navasky in You’ve Got Mail, it was his typewriters (yes, plural – he had several). For me, it’s my dictionaries (yes, plural – I have more dictionaries than Frank had typewriters). I’ve written previously about how my dictionary is the one book I can’t live without, specifically my Macquarie International English Dictionary.

But the version I have was published in 2004 (which was when I bought it), making it twelve years old and meaning it doesn’t contain any of the words invented in the intervening period or reflect changes in how English is used (and as much as pedants would prefer there weren’t, there are always changes).

Last year, when I was using it to ensuring spelling accuracy and consistency as I edited Project December: A Book about Writing, I thought it would do the job well enough. But it was in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t be able to put off buying a new dictionary for much longer. And this year, when I was hired (and subsequently paid) to edit an autobiography, I knew the time had come. Continue reading

Writing the book or character that will headline your obituary

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Earlier this year, while scanning news headlines (as I do frequently each day), I came across the following:

Legends of the Fall author Jim Harrison dies aged 78”

Even though I’ve seen the movie of Legends of the Fall, starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, I didn’t know it was based on Jim Harrison’s book. In fact, I didn’t know who Jim Harrison was.

Now I know (because I did a little research before writing this blog post) that Jim Harrison started writing while he was recovering after falling off a cliff, that he was rather prolific, that Legends of the Fall is actually a novella, that he specialised in novellas and that I’ve never heard of any of his other works. Which explains why the writer of the headline felt it necessary to include the name of his most famous work. Continue reading

Why writers should call out other writers when they do poor work

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Earlier in the year, my stepmother was dragged into a PR nightmare when the founder and owner of a program for gifted children became the subject of an article in a major Australian newspaper. My stepmother is a licensee of the program and a teacher, taking it into primary schools and offering additional educational challenges for children who have been assessed as gifted. The owner had made the mistake of posting opinion pieces on the business’s website and a concerned parent, upon seeing the controversial posts, immediately contacted the newspaper wanting to have it exposed.

That concerned parent had a point. The posts weren’t just controversial and inappropriately featured on the business’s website, they were also completely unacceptable in the context of the program being offered in schools. However, instead of the journalist making these points in a balanced piece of reporting, she instead decided to target and ridicule the elderly owner of the program. Continue reading