Friday, October 19, 2012

5 Ways to Silence Your Internal Editor

by Jean Oram

Have you ever had a nasty gremlin sitting on your shoulder telling you that you can't do it when you write? He's that little guy who wheezes in your ear, sharing not-so-sweet nothings like, "That's an adverb, followed by too many adjectives." Or "That makes no sense. Do you even know who this character is? You must SHOW their motivation." Or "That paragraph is too long." Or "A comma doesn't go there." Or "Spelled that wrong!" Or "Get a thesaurus, you've used that word three times."

Yeah, that internal editor can be a nasty little you-know-what when you are trying to get down a first draft. But he can also be worth his weight during edits.

So, what do you do when he keeps butting in while you are writing your first draft? What can you do? And you have to do something otherwise that nasty little gremlin will smother your muse in vile tar in five seconds flat, leaving you sobbing on your keyboard.

5 Ways to Silence Your Internal Editor

(Until You Need Him/Her)

1. Write.

Just keep writing. You have to show that gremlin who's boss--and that would be you, the writer. So keep writing. Eventually he'll get tired and drift off.

Learn to be okay with the fact that some of what you write is going to be garbage. If you keep writing, eventually you run out of garbage--plus oddly enough, over time it becomes less smelly. (Nice!) You can always edit it later, recycling some items, landfilling others, polishing hidden gems, etc., but if you don't have it down... what have you got to edit and polish? Nothin', darlin'.

How to Silence Your internal Editor. It's Okay to write coal. That's where diamonds begin.

2. Rules.

If it is a long list of writing rules that keeps you from doing well when putting down a draft, turn off your grammar and spell checker and write. You will have plenty of time to worry about commas and grammar later. Right now you need to get in the zone, stay there, and write. Plus, the more you write, write, write, the sooner all those rules will become second nature.

If you decide to focus on learning the rules while you write, consider focusing on one thing at a time--we don't want any exploded heads... brains are very difficult to clean off the upholstery.

3. Distraction.

Some writers find that if their gremlin doesn't have a day job, is a bit of an insomniac, and is always on snoopervision no matter what they do, they distract him. Try music. Talk radio so he doesn't get lonely. Or the TV so he picks up useful tidbits he can feed into your subconscious to be placed here and there in your story.

4. Play.

Let your Gremlin play. He's playful. He's bored. He's not going anywhere, so use him. Channel his energy into your internal Ways-I-Can-Improve drive. Challenge yourself in healthy ways. But remember, when he gets to be too much tell him to shut it. And be firm. Spank him if necessary. (I won't call social services, I promise.)

5. Research.

Send your internal editor gremlin out to do research. If he keeps harping on you about sensory information, let him loose on someone else's work. Let him soak up knowledge and apply it to your work--in edits. (Try and keep that nasty little guy out of your first draft.)

Good luck young grasshoppers. And whatever you do, keep your gremlin dry.

Now that you've looked at your internal editor/gremlin from the write angle, do you have any handy gremlin elimination tips? Share them in the comments section.

Jean Oram once kept her gremlin up late and let it have a bath. Things turned rather nasty. Her short story, which is about love and not about gremlins, will be published in The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse where she also served as a gremlin on the contributing author's shoulders (i.e. editor). You can find more writing tips from Jean on her blog. (Today's post is: 7 Words that Weaken Your Writing--don't miss it!).


Debra McKellan said...

My gremlin's a telepath. I never hear her, but I stop to correct my writing anyway. lol

Jean Oram said...

Lol, Debra. I like that kind of gremlin, the soft, kind, and helpful ones. :)

Sophie Perinot said...

I am putting that "coal" quote up above my computer right this minute!

Matt Sinclair said...

As a last resort, I've plied the editor with alcohol. But sometimes a party ensues, which isn't good for writing either.

LD Masterson said...

I've got Debra's gremlin. I never really hear her but I just can't bring myself to go past that error without stopping to fix it.

Such a pain.

Jean Oram said...

Sophie, that is awesome. You just made my day. (The coal quote is something I made up when trying to sum up the feelings I have behind the tips in this post.) :D

Matt, way too funny! A party might change the tone of the book a bit, but could be fun!

LD, my gremlin has only just let me get to the end of a paragraph (rather than end of phrases or sentence) before going back and making corrections to typos. I just can't let the typos go until later!

Jemi Fraser said...

I think NaNo has helped me silence the gremlins the best! :)

LOVE the coal quote!! Perfect!

Jean Oram said...

Thanks, Jemi.

Yeah, there is something magical about letting it all go in order to get 50K down in 30 days, isn't there? Love NaNo. I'm hoping I can return to it next year.

Jelly Gamat Luxor said...

share words of motivation friend
People who think negatively always sees the difficulty in every opportunity, while successful people are always looking for an opportunity in every difficulty.
Greetings, success always and I wait behind the visit: D

Jean Oram said...

Jelly, words of motivation are exactly what we're hoping for from that editor inside our head. Well put. Thanks for stopping by.

Tammy Theriault said...

love the ideas, especially to keep writing. sometimes when i get tired of writing my story...i write something else, like poem, just to take a break. great blog!

following from klahanie

Jean Oram said...

Thanks, Tammy. Glad you are enjoying the blog. Changing pace and writing something different is a great idea.

Julia Marie Weston said...

I love the quote about writing coal to get the diamonds. One inspirational reading I keep in mind when my writing is not as optimal as it could be is F. Scott Fitzgerald's last novel about Hollywood. Fitzgerald wrote amazing novels, and yet reading that unpublished book, I saw that he too started out with bad rough drafts.

P. S. Chance said...

One of the most entertaining posts of encouragement and instruction I've read in a long while. Thank you!

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