Metacognition and the Writer Skill Set

Metacognition and the Writer Skill Set

Have you ever heard of the Dunning–Kruger effect? This normal and human cognitive deficit means that in the areas we are least skilled at – let’s use writing skill as an example –we lack the ability to identify any shortcomings. As it turns out, the same skill set needed to be an outstanding writer is also necessary to have “metacognition” – the ability to objectively evaluate one’s own abilities. (This is also true of other abilities and in other professions.)

It leads to some interesting phenomena that editors see all the time.

New writers tend to suffer from an illusory feeling of superiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while highly skilled writers underrate their work and suffer from an illusory feeling of  inferiority.

Abyss & Apex has a deserved reputation for working with new writers: on average, 25 percent of the stories we publish are a “first sale.” This may be because as a whole, even in the use of form letters, our staff tries to  dole out deserved praise and point out areas for improvement. We rarely have to slap anyone down for undeserved hubris. It happens, but a positive attitude seems to help us mostly avoid that. We strive to be impartial and to expand how a writer looks at him or herself. We want to help develop their metacognition: so they can see their stories as they actually are,  and evaluate their skill set honestly.

As a new writer grows and starts to see their flaws (gosh, I know the feeling!) , our role shifts to telling them they are not as bad as they think they are, and helping them see not only the flaws that they are blind to but areas of wonderful growth they might have missed. We help them see their writing objectively, to think of it as someone else’s writing and be honest in their praise or criticism of their own work. To be sure, most of those lessons are taught elsewhere, but if our rejection letters or rewrite requests can aid that process, we’re there.

Objectivity is the name of the game. We’re committed to helping your stories be the best they can be, even if they are not quite right for A&A.

 

Wendy S. Delmater, Editor

Abyss & Apex

 

Leave a Reply