Becoming Friends with My Inner Editor

Even though I’m not supposed to, even though I don’t really have time, (considering my Byberry book is due to the publisher in two months) I’ve started writing a new book. I mentioned it briefly before, when I wrote the first chapter on vacation a few weeks ago. I mentioned that I think it’s good. Like, good. Because I’m superstitious, I won’t really say more about it besides that it’s middle grade and that the opening chapter is set on Halloween.

What’s exciting for me is that I’m writing this book differently. When I’ve written manuscripts in the past, my biggest problem has been rushing through it. I need to get this idea.the next idea.the next scene down on paper rightnow and it leads to a sort of listed story “Henry walked home. Then he turned around to look at the sunset one last time. Then he went to bed” that’s heavy on the “then’s” and scanty on the rhythm, prose, and descriptive details. My manuscripts in the past have been bare bones; it has the structure, it has the plot points. But there’s wind rushing through the hollow ribcage of my story. And the worst part is, it’s such an ugly pile of words that I really have no idea how to deal with it. I still haven’t looked at my 2011 NaNoWriMo book because it’s terrifying. I know I’m going to have to rewrite the entire thing, because what I have right now is worthless. Not only is the pace far too fast and the prose far from pretty, but because I rushed through, the plot doesn’t even make sense. It’s a mess and I don’t know how to go about revising it.

Because that obviously hasn’t worked for me in the past, I’m trying a different process. And even though everybody says you should lock up your inner editor while writing the first draft, I’m finding that it’s actually much better to have her keep me company. I’m not editing each sentence, paragraph, or chapter within an inch of its life before I move on (if I did that, I might never move forward and write the next chapter). But I am writing it like a sequence of short stories. I write a chapter. I fiddle with it, rewrite it, move things around. I don’t worry about perfection, but instead focus on the voice. I really want the voice to stay consistent because it helps guide me in the next chapter and it keeps me from writing scenes that so obviously do not belong in this book. It’s still a draft–it’s still going to need to be revised and edited at a later stage–but by letting my inner editor visit earlier in the process, it’s a strong draft. Each chapter can stand on its own, independently. It’s a good foundation for my next chapter.

It’s working for me. So far I have four strong chapters that do everything I want them to do. They move along the plot and are slowly developing the characters. As I read through them as a cohesive unit, I see things that later down the line will need to be changed. There are entire scenes that I think will probably get cut later down the line. But I’m not letting my inner editor have full reign. I value her opinion, her suggestions, but I’m not letting her get bossy and redo everything I’ve already done. She’ll have to wait until the whole book’s written before I let her do that.

But it’s a nice surprise to see that writing this book hasn’t been as hard or stressful as past manuscripts. It’s plodding along–I’m four chapters and 8,000-words in, which isn’t half bad considering I only wrote on vacation that one week and this past Labor Day weekend–and I’m happy to write new chapters as they occur to me and I’m happy to let it sit and work on something else so I don’t butcher it because of some ridiculous need to get it done as soon as possible. It’s also nice to learn that my inner editor isn’t as evil as various writing books and author lectures and blogs have led me to believe. I think I’ll keep her.

(Image source: The New York Public Library Archives. Flickr Commons.)

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15 thoughts on “Becoming Friends with My Inner Editor

  1. introvertedknitter says:

    Glad you were able to find a happy medium between completely ignoring your inner editor and letting them have full reign. I think it’s great you are willing to try other ways, and can acknowledge that your previous method may not be the best fit for you. Keep up the great work.

  2. Kay Lynn says:

    I’ve always written by hand and then typed what I’ve written, editing as I type, and that works for me. I’ve heard the “You’re not supposed to edit as you go!” rigmarole, but I’ve also found that I still have tons of editing to do when I’m finished, so I think you need to just do whatever works for you and ignore some of the so-called experts sometimes.

    • hannahkarena says:

      Everyone thinks I’m crazy to write it out then type it, because they think it’s such a wasted effort and waste of time, but I really do write better material that way! I’m starting to learn that I should practice and figure it out myself rather than follow the overwhelming amount of writing advice out there.

      • Kay Lynn says:

        I enjoy the act of physically writing more than I enjoy the act of typing. I think I’m more creative when I put pencil to paper (because I enjoy erasing as opposed to scribbling out mistakes with a pen – I like my paper to be neat and clean) than I am when I’m staring at a blinking cursor. Also, for me it’s a habit. I didn’t have a computer until I went off to college, so curling up in a recliner or on the couch with a notebook and a three-ring binder for a hard surface is much more of an ingrained activity than curling up with my laptop.

        On the other hand, I love to edit on my computer. Cut and paste and find and replace make editing soooo much easier! 🙂

  3. journeyofjordannaeast says:

    That’s exactly how I write! I do a bare bones “See Dick & Jane run” chapter, then I go back and polish it up before moving on to the next chapter. I’ll still need to tackle a few adverbs and play with the action verbs later during rewrites, but for the most part I’m left with a string of enjoyable chapters.

  4. amatterofself says:

    Best of luck!

    I’ve written a manuscript in the past that was more free-form and it goes in chunks of me speeding through and better prose… so I think you and I work the same way. My current project (third draft actually) I decided to approach each chapter as a short story. I wrote out an outline for the chapters and made notes on the narrative arc of the chapters. And I could be working on 2-3 chapters at the same time because I was treating them as individual stories and I knew the contents of each chapter as stand-alones.

    Every now and then, I’d have to go in and change the outline, add chapters, rearrange some passages in the chapters or into other chapters, etc. And while there’s still tons of editing to do (and a handful of chapters left to write), this current manuscript is MUCH more solid than anything I’ve written before. And I don’t feel like I’m rushing through it at all, but the writing process has been significantly faster. I expect this draft to be completed by the end of the year.

    Glad to hear you’re trying out this new approach. Hope it’s fruitful for you.

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