After I penned Rise of the robot writers?, Intrepid Guy conveyed the Love Hound and me to a Posh Canadian Resort for my birthday: Lindt truffles, whirlpool workout space, and plush quiet. Visualize doggie treat bags on the door knob—twice. This was most likely due to the Hound, Goodwill Ambassador personified. We even enjoyed a celebratory dinner while a pup sitter, Ms. Doubtfire without the gender confusion, rubbed the Hound’s belly.
Shortly after this holiday, we stayed at Hyperbola 7 for a work related event. This stopover offered none of the opulence at a third of the rate. Please don’t take this as an indictment of our lodgings—they match our resources. Still the contrast made me wonder: what distinguishes a great novel from, well, schlock? As a keen reader, I know the differences fall beyond production costs.
Come with me while I revisit a once favored writers’ conference outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. One particular year ended my attachment to this particular gathering. As with many such offerings, the information and networking opportunities shrank disproportionate to my outlay.
That year I attended a seminar offered by a prolific writer who claimed he never, ever edited. Ever. His addendum seemed to be that writers who did were chumps, and he had the money to prove it—kaching, kaching. Since I’d never read any of his novels, I remedied that once I returned home.
My library system supplied a work for hire piece based on a television series. It quickly became obvious that he never edited. Ever. I suspect he’s one of the hirelings that a robot soon will supplant.
Yet deny a wordsmith the chance to make a living? Not me. Plus I enjoy the works for hire of other writers. The difference? Could it be respect for process?
Many write well, even lyrically. They surprise me with reversals and apply craft to the finished product. Despite integrating segments into an ongoing storyline, grace and heart suffuse their works. I deduce that they even—gasp!—edit.
These principled writers take me elsewhere and deliver on story. Begging the question: what separates hack from storyteller? Perhaps more importantly, who among us will be replaced by robots? Let’s start a conversation.