Chrysalis: Emerging Women Writers

October 20, 2010

Silence That Inner Editor

Filed under: Technique,Uncategorized,Writing — K. @ 8:23 pm

I came across a little trick the other day that I’m pretty sure will help me, and maybe it will help you, too. I am plagued by that awful Ms Inner Editor, who criticizes almost every sentence, sometimes nearly every word I put down in my first draft and wants me to “stop immediately and correct that! Right now, you! Don’t go any further until you fix what you’ve done.”

The effect of Ms IE is that I often will go back over a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph of more, taking out certain words and replacing them, then sometimes replacing them again, until I’m able to move onto the next sentence. This makes writing a first draft extremely difficult and tedious, if not impossible. Yes, I’ve heard that’s the way Dean Koontz does it, polishing each page before going to the next, so at the end of the novel, well, that’s really the end. His first draft, second draft and final draft, all right there and wrapped up neatly, ready to go. I’m not sure if that anecdote is true, first off, and second, I’m certainly no Dean Koontz with a proven track record and miles of printed pages out on the bookstore shelves.

I need every trick I can find right now to just blast through the first draft and get it all down, so I can go back and edit and smooth and make it shiny. So what’s this trick? To get the whole effect, read this blog by Andy Shackcloth. This is just the nutshell version.

So there you are, writing along happily for a few sentences or paragraphs and then ugly Ms IE pops up and says, “Eeeeewwww, that’s not right! Here, let’s fix it before you go on. It’ll take just a second.” Liar! Two minutes later you’ll still be trying to get it just right and the wind will be gone from your sails. You’ll be dead in the water. So try this: Smile sweetly to acknowledge Ms IE  then put a # mark right there where she thinks your stuff stinks. The # is shift+3. Then go and and finish your first draft, using this little # at each spot where Ms IE flicks her long scarlet fingernail at you. When you are done! It’s over! First draft complete! then you can use the search function of your word processing software (for Word, it’s “Find” under the “Edit” top menu) to highlight all those # marks.

Of course, you’ll want to completely edit the whole first draft, not just those highlighted spots, but knowing you’ve marked the troublesome areas will free up your writing mind to keep going. You don’t need to worry about forgetting to fix it later.

So see, Ms IE! I wasn’t ignoring you, I was just saving your Quality Control notes for me to deal with later. So no more nasty looks from you.

Let me know how this works for you. I’ll be trying it during NaNoWriMo when it’s go for the glory, worry about the guts later.




  1. Write on! Since I’m a great postponer, I just tell Ms Editor that I’ll get right back to that oops just as soon as I finish this next part of the story. As with the ironing and mending and unloading the dishwasher, I DON’T get right back to it, but i start every writing session by reading through what I wrote in the previous session and tidying things up at that time. That gets me back into the flow of the story, and away I go, procrastinating the repairs again.

    Comment by Roxie — October 21, 2010 @ 5:08 am

  2. I do a lot of editing as I write. I don’t spend all day nitpicking each sentence, though. I’ll write a paragraph, read through it once or twice to tweak it, then go on to the next. At the end of the chapter I go back through and do more edits. Then I put it to bed until I’m done with the first draft. I don’t find that this method detracts from getting things done. I don’t have huge word counts each day, but I make good progress. I also outline before I write, which helps me keep the momentum flowing. I’m never at a loss as to what comes next. Because of these things, my first drafts are pretty clean. Unlike Dean Koontz (allegedly) I still do a second draft to flesh things out (even with an outline, the story and characters surprise you) and a third draft to polish the language. And I do additional edits based on feedback I get from my beta readers. Still, my first draft makes sense, doesn’t have a lot of extraneous scenes, and reads smoothly enough to fool a lot of people into thinking it’s good. 🙂

    Comment by Lisa Nowak — October 21, 2010 @ 8:27 am

  3. Ah, Lisa, so that’s your trick about bringing in those flawless WIPs! I hope to be able to get the point where you and Roxie are … but for now, the Inner Editor just stops me cold. I need to keep moving on … actually complete a novel, rather than abandoning it partly done. NaNoWriMo is my salvation, I think, I hope … time for editing later. Just get it down …

    Comment by Kathie H-K — October 21, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

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