Writing and Embracing Your Inner Editor

Today’s writing tip addresses one of the most difficult facets of being a writer – your inner editor. Your inner editor is that critic buried deep down inside you that rears her ugly head each time you have some writing momentum. 

She urges you to stop and scrutinize each and every detail of your writing. She says things like, Is the sentence structure sound?, or You had better double check your grammar. Sounds good? Not really, at least not yet. 

There is a time and a place for your inner editor, however today’s writing tip will focus on the first draft of anything you write, and this is not the right time for the inner editor. You need to reach deep inside and find a way to take him captive, and hold him prisoner until such a time as you are ready to unleash him on your work.

The first draft of your writing is a vulnerable time. What you are writing fresh, and new. The thoughts behind this writing probably haven’t had time to germinate and mature. Just like the early years of childhood, parents harbor their young, and try to influence them within a protected environment as long as they can. Your first draft is your baby, and it needs to be protected until it’s done.

When you write your first draft, you are in a creative mind set. Your number one concern during this phase is to write, write, and write some more. You want to bulldoze your way through it, especially if it’s a novel. Experiment with new ideas. Move pieces around. 

You can do that if your inner editor is locked up in a dungeon below the ground. If he doesn’t know what you are doing, you can get away with anything. That is what good authors do. They explore new ground, and cover uncharted territory. 

Here are some simple writing tips to keep you writing unabashedly during your first draft.

Plan your writing before the first draft

Plan for whatever you can, and do it before you start your draft. Plan scenes, your plot, your characters, your setting. Plan when you will write, and for how long. How much can you write in one sitting? 

Having a plan helps keep your inner editor away, because it will improve the quality of your first draft. Once you start your draft, the planning stage is over. You just write. 

Stay positive about your writing

Ernest Hemmingway once said that “the first draft of anything is shit.” This man won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Every masterpiece you read started out as a first draft (they just don’t show that version to you).

Make goals for your writing

The first draft is all about just getting it done. You need goals. How much will you write? How long will you write? How frequently? These are all questions about volume of writing and time. 

Make goals that help you bulldoze your way through the first draft. Write the goals down, and for heaven’s sake – track them! Remember, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Never edit your first draft

The goal is to get through it, and to get it done. Don’t edit your first draft until it’s done, and I mean all the way done. The first draft phase isn’t meant for editing, it’s meant for coming up with ideas and being a creative, free thinker. 

Your inner editor is the assassin for the creative, free thinker. You will need it later, however not now. He will sabotage you in this phase. Lock him up, and keep him somewhere nasty.

Capture and imprison your inner editor

This is difficult and different for everyone. Come up with what you can say to your inner editor when he tries to influence and manipulate you from behind bars (read: Silence of the Lambs). What will you say to him? Keep quotes in your writing environment like the one I included from Ernest Hemmingway. 

Keep a poorly written, yet published book on hand. If that author can get published, why not you? Figure out whatever you have to do – just have that tactic decided before the inner editor tries to escape. If you haven’t figured out what you are going to do, you will lose in the heat of the moment.

Summary

Writing is fun. Writing is hard too. If it is guest post writing or writing your first novel, each have their unique challenges. Recognize that there are things you can do to make the process less painful, and more enjoyable. I hope these writing tips have been useful to someone. If you have found them useful, all I ask is that you share this post with your writer friends.

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