Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Writing the Literary Novel

Excellent advice in Suzanne Reisman's Ten Tips to Write a Novel That's Literary as F—", amusingly expressed. The article does include a certain, um, Joycian quality—which is to say,
But I've had to correct one or more of these issues in every manuscript across my desk. Including my own.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Robert, Editing

My wife (seen here reflected in the mirror in the background) caught this candid shot of me editing. Clearly, I love my job.


Also, I tend to lose track of time, and apparently hadn't noticed that the sun had gone down and I was now working in the dark.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Excellence for What?

Very pleased to have a chapter in the just released Routledge collection, Global Perspectives on Teaching Excellence entitled "Excellence for what? Policy Development and the Discourse of the Purpose of Higher Education." The collection is basically a reaction to recent legislation in the UK that attempted to measure and mandate teaching excellence in higher education. My wife and I wrote a critique using my discourse analysis model of the purpose of higher education applied to the new legislation to suggest that the government's definition of 'excellence' might be somewhat problematic from the perspective of students and learning.

Of course, discourse analysis is a large part of academic editing, so it's nice to be able to keep my hand in original research/publication to be part of this excellent collection.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Some Thoughts on Writing a Novel (Video by Joe Mahoney)

Here's Joe Mahoney talking about writing his novel, A Time and A Place.

It's a pretty good summary of the process and principles I think most successful writers come to live by. (He ended up with a pretty great book.)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

"The Luck of Charles Harcourt" and "Sermon on the Mount"

My 1989 short story, "The Luck of Charles Harcourt", has been reprinted in the current issue (#5) of Polar Borealis (above left). The timing pleases me greatly because the story originally appeared in the very first issue of On Spec magazine (pictured above right), and my second story in On Spec, "Sermon on the Mount" came out just last month (January, 2018) in #106 Vol. 28 (3), pp. 88-105 (pictured below). So there is an opportunity to compare first and last, as it were.

Note that although Polar Borealis is a paying market showcasing new and established Canadian authors, it is available free to subscribers: Download Now

I must confess that reading my story from nearly thirty years ago makes me wince a little bit at the now obvious sexism, and it seems strange to read about people lining up at the bank tellers instead of using the ATM, and that there were no cell phones yet. I was tempted to update the story, but editor Graeme Cameron argued that "every story is a time capsule, capturing the context of the time it was written. Which is why I don't believe fiction should ever be reprinted with alterations designed to appease changing tastes and views. Let the past speak with the authentic voice of the past, I say."

It's an intriguing issue. Lorina and I left Hargreaves' stories as they were when Five Rivers reprinted North by 2000+ because they were authentically awesome, though the future he predicted for 2000 was not quite the one we got. In my preface, I told readers to just read the stories as if they took place in a parallel universe where American and Canada had merged (to take just one example of what hadn't gone the ways Hargreaves had predicted in the 1960s) but some readers did indeed complain about the anachronisms. Though it should be noted how many things Hargreaves got right, and therefore went unnoticed.... On the other hand, we updated Leslie Gadallah's books to take out the long explanations of the Internet, because we actually had the Internet by the time we reprinted her books. Perhaps the most interesting issue I've had as an editor with anachronisms is an author who wanted to disguise that the story was based on their own life by setting it in modern day, but then the action didn't make any sense, because much of the storyline depended on the confusion arising from characters not being able to reach each other, which just can't happen that way in an era of smartphones.

The story in the current issue of On Spec is "Sermon on the Mount", a time travel story. I always thought the time travel genre was kind of mined out, but then the idea for this one popped into my head, so there you go. Though now Krista Ball mentions it, I should probably have had a few more female characters in there....But, you know, reflects the times...

Anyway, pleased with to have the two stories out at once. Waiting to see if any of the five currently under consideration get picked up.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Impostor syndrome

Many of our clients are students writing theses or dissertations, and many struggle with impostor syndrome, the sense that they have finally reached the limits of their knowledge/skills and are about to be exposed as the impostor they are, because they are struggling writing their thesis or dissertation. What they don't realize, of course, is that everyone struggles with any sustained piece of writing—if one isn't struggling, it's probably not going to be their best work.

High achievers are susceptible to Impostor Syndrome, says psychotherapist and author Dr. Aaron Balick, because they push the bounds of their professional areas, often working at the edge of their area of expertise. "It can be said that the more successful you are, the more likely you are to experience this, since your experience at the top of your field is, by its very nature, unusual."

—from an article by Bonnie Burton.

Grad students writing a thesis or dissertation are by definition out at the edges of their disciplines, creating new knowledge. A thesis or dissertation is usually the largest, highest-stakes project they've undertaken yet, so struggle and angst are pretty much inevitable. That one bumps up against staring at the blank page or having to rethink one's approach multiple times or not having the pieces all fall into place instantly is all perfectly normal because the processes of creation and writing are both complex and difficult—for everyone.

Which is where, of course, writing coaches come in. A little moral support can go a long way, starting by reassuring the writer that the angst they are feeling is normal and healthy. If writing were easy, everyone would do it. To do it well, is to put in effort, and effort requires struggle.

To help grad students with their struggles, Essential Edits has commissioned a 32 page guide by Dr. Runté on Thesis Writing Strategies which addresses the issues of dealing with the angst of writing (and more specifically, of rewriting) a thesis or dissertation, available FREE from the website.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Stephen Fry on "Correct" Language Usage

and why being pedantic about correct usage is small-minded and betrays a true lack of love of language: Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography: Language. Worth a listen.

At, we try to strike the appropriate balance between 'correctness' and the author's 'authentic voice'. A question of context, largely: Memoir or textbook, dialog or formal essay, this character or that one in a novel—diction makes a very useful character tag . . .