“Yeah, you. That line – back four pages. Go rewrite it- it’s WRONG.”
“But it’s the first draft…”
“That doesn’t matter – GO. DO. IT. NOW. Or you’ll FAIL!”
Perhaps not verbatim, but similar to what I hear (or used to hear) in my head on a very regular basis. As I write. When I pause. When I send something out for someone to read. Even when I’m watching television.
All. The. Time.
While you’re writing a first draft, the pesky self-doubting inner-editor often steps in with whispers of how to fix something straight away. To stop your flow, go back and make corrections it’s suddenly thought of.
I know I used to get caught up on this. The time I spent going back and fiddling with a line until I was happy with it, only to wake up in the middle of the night and realize I needed to fix it some more. It took me a long time to realize – but I was too close to my work for my interim edits to do anything constructive to my work. Most of the time? I just made it worse.
Now, I’ll caveat this with my habitual: This is how things work for me, they may not work the same way for you.
Taming the Pesky Inner-Editor
Write the draft without editing.
Easier said than done, right?
How could I say such a thing? Easily.
I, like many other writers I know, had issues finishing a project. Â My tendency to go back and rewrite before I finished the piece, made actually completing one a very rare occurrence.
Now, you’ve made the decision to BE a writer. You’ve given yourself a list and (hopefully) figured out your groove.
Sit down, look at your W.I.P. and glare at it. Yes, that’s right – glare. The moment it tries to make you go back and edit; the moment it whispers in your ear that what you’ve written is crap, mediocre or never going to be good enough – That’s the moment you need to, quite literally, tell it to: F*** Off. (If you don’t like swearing, then tell it to piss off, but I find being forceful works better).
While everyone is different, you can’t beat the fact that an empty page is empty. By this I mean, if you want to be able to go back and polish, edit and send it out to beta readers – you need a complete story with which to do it.
Focus on getting that first draft down. Don’t let the inner editor pull you back and bog you down. Interrupting the original flow you have can stagnate your writing until it trickles to a stop.
You can always fix a bad sentence, but you can’t do anything to an unwritten one.
Naturally it helps to have your plot nailed down. But holes can be filled, and character inconsistencies corrected. Words can be replaced and paragraphs rephrased.
For me, getting the words down is of paramount importance. The rest I can fix after the fact.
Pesky Inner-Editor is another of the things you have to do yourself. You can get cheered on somewhere like #writemotivation, or by your crit partners, even by your family. But the person who has to tell that annoying voice to shut up – is you.
I often reward mine with the promise of letting it empty a few red pens and highlighters when I go over my first draft in paper-edit form.
Whatever you have to do to get the words down? It’s worth it.
How do you deal with the Inner-Editor? Do you have one? Does it get in the way of completing drafts or have you figured out another way to deal with it?