The Inner Editor

Your inner editor is that voice in your head that tells you when you’ve made a typo, or written an awkward sentence, etc. A strong inner editor is not a bad thing, most of the time.

When you’ve written your first draft you can let that strong inner editor loose on your work and hopefully avoid humiliation when you first hand your draft to another reader. If you have a weak inner editor you should get as much outside help as possible.

Notice I said “when you’ve written your first draft.”

While you’re writing that draft, your inner editor is not your friend.

When you write a first draft, the goal isn’t to produce a masterpiece, it is to get the story out of your head and on paper/in a file. If your inner editor freaks out every time you get a visit from the Department of Redundancy Department (DoRD) or screams at you that you’ve spelled your main character’s name three different ways, it can really slow you down.

Thus, the trick is to suppress the inner editor during this time.

What I (and many writers) have found helpful is to imagine the inner editor as a person (of sorts) and then imagine that you’ve locked them in the cellar or chained them up in the yard or some such.

My inner editor resembles Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc. When I write something he doesn’t like there is a lot of panicked arm waving and jumping around and hysterical (and often sarcastic) commentary. When I sit down to write a first draft, I chain him to the grapefruit tree in the back yard, way over by the back fence. I can still hear him if he’s really freaking out, but for the fiddly stuff, it’s not too hard to ignore him.

My daughter’s inner editor looks like a stern school teacher (makes sense, she’s a kid). When she was preparing to try NaNo, she drew a picture of her editor and gave it to me for safe keeping while she wrote.

NaNoWriMo suggests that a writer go to something of an extreme with this and never backspace to correct anything. I, personally, can’t go that far. First of all, I’d have to retrain myself in a way that wouldn’t be helpful with general communication. I touch type and often correct a typo before my eyes have even had a chance to focus on it. I just know I missed the key I was going for and I automatically fix it.

In essence, I will allow myself to stop and fix things that have a quick and obvious solution. If I typed “brown” when I meant to type “brawn”, it’s really better that I fix it right away while I can still remember what I meant to say. If I find myself pausing for more than about a minute, I may make a note to myself in the text like “[CAN WE FIND ANOTHER WORD FOR THIS, HMMM?]” (my notes to myself are always in ALL CAPS) and move on. Or I might just let it go until editing.

My inner editor has 33 days until he’s chained in the yard again.

What does your inner editor look like? What do you do with it when you need it to shut up and let you write?

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