Sunday, November 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo: Making My Internal Editor Work For Me

Hello friends and strangers!

It is November 1st. The day of candy hangovers. The start of the month of turkey feasts. Snow could appear at any moment. More importantly (to some), it is the first day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Writers all over the world take on the crazy task of writing 50,000 words of a first draft of a novel in thirty short days.

I am participating in this insanity (sleighmonroe on the NaNo site, if you want to find me). I’ll be writing a retelling of the Cassandra myth.

I listen to the chatter in the NaNo forums, and all over Twitter. There is a ton of cheering each other on, which sometimes makes me wonder how any of us find time to write any words that are part of our actual novel. There are also a lot of questions out there, most related to how to deal with your internal editor.

Even if you aren’t a writer, you have an internal editor. It’s that voice that pops up in your head, telling you how much you suck. It criticizes whatever task you are trying to focus on, giving you tons of suggestions for ways that you should be doing it instead. The internal editor takes great joy in telling you you should just give up completely and find something else to do with your time, like maybe throwing pudding at a wall.

If you are a writer, your internal editor can bring your work to a screeching halt, leaving you staring blankly at the computer screen, unable to press the keys and type words. Or your editor can send you back into words you have already written, adjusting and rewriting endlessly.

This is a massive problem during NaNoWriMo. There is no time to sit still. There is no time to cycle back through work you have already done. You have to keep moving ever forward if you are going to make it to the end.

The most common advice I hear in regards to dealing with your internal editor is to just ignore it. This works for some writers.

I ignore that advice. I am unable to push my editor far enough into the recesses of my mind. The other problem with ignoring my editor, is that I would lose all the input she wants to give me. So, I make my internal editor work FOR me.

If my editor pipes up with the comment “Oooo, you should add (whatever) to that scene twenty pages ago,” I do it. I go back, and ADD the words my editor has suggested. This ups my word count. Win!

If my editor instead suggests that I delete a scene, or change an event (Betty shouldn’t walk to the park, she should find an old bike in the barn), I go back to the scene in question, but I don’t do what my editor suggests. Instead, I change the font to bold and hand her the keyboard. She is allowed to type whatever she wants. She can tell me all the reasons why a scene should be cut, she can tell me the color and style of the bike in the barn, she can even tell me that my main character is a whiny turd who just needs to be flushed. I don’t read what she is typing. Not yet.

This might seem a little odd, but really, it’s a win-win. All the words she just spewed onto the page count toward my word count. Win! Plus, I have her comments saved for later. Like January. Whenever I get to revisions for the novel, all of her comments are there for me to sift through. Some will still be garbage, and I will delete them. Others will bring up valid points and suggestions that make my book stronger. (My editor has some skills, after all, or she wouldn’t be an editor). Second win!

This works well for me; I am able to keep the story moving forward, and get the benefit of my editor’s comments. Let me know if you try it, and if it helped you deal with your internal editor.

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