Writing Wednesdays: Silencing your inner editor

November 15, 2017
How do you stop yourself getting sucked into editing your work in progress, and silence your inner editor? I share some advice in this week's post.

Last week, I talked about the struggles of rewriting your work in progress and a few tactics to deal with it. Following on from that, I wanted to talk about shutting down your inner editor - especially since it's NaNoWriMo.

For NaNoWriMo, the aim is to write 50,000 words in a month. That's a lot of hard work and a lot of writing - and really doesn't leave much room in that month for editing. And when you're trying to get a complete first draft, you have to be careful not to fall into the trap of trying to edit as you go.

I've said before that I always reckon it's best to leave edits until you've got a complete first draft - and you can read more about that here

It's much easier to edit when you have a complete first draft because the more you try editing while you're still writing the story, the more you'll get sucked into the never ending black hole of rewrites and edits, and you'll never make any real progress. And it's much easier to edit when you've got a whole thing to edit, and not half a thing. But like I said - you can read more about that in the linked post above.

But how do you shut down your inner editor? Inner Editor You can be really persistent, and hard to ignore. You should tweak that character's personality. You should add that storyline in, it'll give it more depth. You should, you should, you should...

You should ignore it all.

For now, at least.

If you're worried about forgetting a great idea, or want to keep track, then keep notes somewhere: but don't act on them. Leave them alone. Put them away for now.

Brainstorm new ideas to keep going. Write freely!

If you're finding it hard to keep working, try playing the 'yes and' game. It's actually a great way to brainstorm. You come up with some idea for your story and say 'yes, and...' and you just keep adding on to it. It can get as crazy and stupid and silly as you like. The point is to just shake out your mind a little. You might come up with something you actually want to use.

Or you might think you've wasted your time, come up with a load of useless bullshit, and get back to the story as it was. But you haven't lost anything. When you're trying not to listen to the part of you that wants to edit your WIP before it's done, you need to try and be as free with your writing as you can. 

That first draft is never going to be perfect. It's always going to need more work.

The first draft is for writing, not editing. So think about writing goals.

If it helps you not to edit in the very early stages, set yourself a word count target. Like NaNoWriMo. Be strict with yourself about it: make a poster to stick on your wall to chart your progress. Share about it on Twitter. Add reminders into your phone. 

Make yourself so focused on hitting your word count goal that you won't think about other parts of your story. You'll be too busy putting more words on the page and finishing up that first draft to polish what's already there. 

That writing goal might be 50,000 words for NaNo - or maybe you just focus on every 10k interval. But sometimes word goals can be more manageable to think about and work towards than the vague idea of 'a complete first draft'. How long is that? Who knows? But maybe you've got 34k words, and you want to get to 65k. Maybe you'll be finished at 57k words, but so what? You're finished! Then you can wake your inner editor back up to get to work on the second draft!

Write new content in a separate document.

Some writers work like this anyway, and have a separate document for each chapter or section of their story. Personally, it's not a way I like to work, but if you're really struggling to keep yourself from editing your WIP, don't give yourself anything to edit. 

If you're going to leave your story mid-scene/chapter and come back to it after, copy over the last paragraph or sentence to the new document as a reminder to yourself, so you know where to pick up from. But you'll get into a mindset of not having anything to edit and just keep writing.

Similarly, it could help to do some of your writing on another device. Write on your phone, your tablet, somewhere online or in the cloud, and copy it over to the rest of your WIP when you're done with that part of the book. I wrote more about free writing tools in this post, if you want to check that out.

Do you have trouble shutting down your inner editor? What do you recommend to deal with it? Let me know in the comments!

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