Sunday, February 2, 2014

Attack of the Internal Editor

I can say with relative confidence that my writing skills have steadily improved over the past five years. I can also safely say that I'm a sloppy panster at heart, even when I outline. Seriously. Every time I try to dictate where a story where go ahead of time, I veer off of it in less than a page. I'm not kidding.
Anyway, I've noticed that along with increasing skill comes increasing persnicketiness about what I write. This has benefits and drawbacks. I can admit--despite my previous writer life of rushed seat-of-the-pants-drafting-ways--it's good to slow down and take my time in crafting a novel. It forces me to choose awesome words instead of good ones. BUT, the pressure of picking the RIGHT word the first time often leads me to a stand still. Like literally.
Case in point. My most recent WIP (a young adult contemporary with psychological thriller elements) has been a complete blast to develop. The first six chapters practically wrote themselves. Yet it's gotten to the point that every time I open the document, I freeze. I can't decide what words to put on the page. What order do I want to write them? Who do I want to say what? Where do I want to put the description? What description do I want to include?
I don't know, I don't know, I don't know!!!
A surge of frustration forces--yes, forces!--me to procrastinate. I look at Facebook, Twitter, online forums. I watch an episode of South Park, The Office, or Family Guy.
Two hours later, I return to the MS and fret some more. Why hasn't the word count risen? (Duh. Cuz I didn't write anything. Geez.)
What's happening? Well, in my effort to "prove" I'm a good writer, I have unleashed the Hell beast otherwise known as the Internal Editor (cue horror movie soundtrack here). Any writerly person is very familiar with this monster. When properly fed and cared for, the internal editor can actually be helpful, even friendly. But when little devil runs amok through a first draft, it's akin to a disaster.
So, dear friends, I'd love to hear from you what strategies have helped you tame Internal Editor.
I'll start the dialogue by sharing my strategy:
  1. I free write. Screw picking great words. Just get the damn scene on the page.
  2. I re-read what I just wrote...and am pleasantly surprised it's not as icky as I'd imagined.
  3. I crit someone's work.
  4. I read a book and "take notes" from the pros.
  5. I take a break. Burn out doesn't do anybody any good. Just sayin'.
  6. I try to stop being my own worst enemy and let myself off the hook. It's impossible to be perfect the first go around, so why set such an unrealistic goal? Right? Right.
Alrighty folks, your turn. What strategies have you used to slay the Internal Editor...or at least negotiate a halfway decent working relationship? ;)

Laura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist and author of all things young adult paranormal, dystopian, and horror. Her Young Adult Paranormal Romance novelette NEW PRIDE and novel SHIFTING PRIDE debuted late 2012. A spin off short story based on the lions of Tsavo, TSAVO PRIDE, is now available on Amazon. In 2013, her Young Adult Dystopians, ENDURE and EVOKE, were published by Renegade YA. Her Young Adult Paranormal Adventure, THE ZODIAC COLLECTOR, is coming 2014 by Spencer Hill Press. When she's not writing, she is working at the hospital, blogging at Author Laura Diamond--Lucid Dreamer, and renovating her 225+ year old fixer-upper mansion. 

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1 comment:

  1. I don't write YA, but I find my most productive sessions are those in which I just blast out the story as it comes into my head -- same as what you call "free writing." Once I'm into the scene, the dialogue comes especially easily this way. I don't necessarily think of the Internal Editor as a bad thing, but he does need to be tamed