Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I've Got a Theory: How to send an inner editor on vacation

Many thanks to LisaAnn at Kicked, Cornered, Bitten and Chased for the Versatile Blogger award and the kind words. Thanks, Lisa!

I've gone through a few different inner editors. I even came up with a theory about how you can fire your inner editor. I still wholeheartedly believe in that theory. And now I've got another theory to go along with it.

When I first started writing, my inner editor was Miss Stakeless. She was tough. She made me get my wording close to perfect the first time. She made me stop and think about every single sentence as I wrote it. She made me vary my sentence structures as I went. Why? Because she knew that in my revision process, wording didn't tend to change much. I hate hate hated it. But I totally understand why she did it.

But I still jumped for joy the day I was able to fire her and to hire Auntie Em. Because she made cookies in the brain kitchens while I worked, and I just happen to work really well to the smell of baking cookies. And she'd only check on me every 9-11 minutes. I was sad to see her go, but she still has a standing offer to take over my brain kitchens anytime she wants.

She left because I finally cajoled my dream inner editor to move in. (Yes, there was much cheering. The brain dudes in my army even hosted a party in the streets of my brain.) His name is Dood, and he's a surfer. I really, really loved getting Dood, because he is perfectly willing to surf while I write, and not check in very often. Yet he drops everything and helps non-stop when I'm ready to go to editing mode. He's quite the dream.

My problem? I went into a very intense editing mode for many months. Then I drafted a new book for a bit, then I went into an even more scrutinizing edit.

So when I was ready to start TTBB Book 2, I was afraid. Afraid that since I had been in such a strong editing/revising mode, and not a drafting mode, I was going to start drafting and find that Dood had moved out, and Miss Stakeless had taken his place again. But, I plunged in anyway, and guess what I found? My revising skills had increased enough during the intense editing phase that Dood felt he could take a vacation while I drafted! Apparently, he has enough faith in me. Not faith that I won't mess up the draft. I think he's pretty sure that's a good possibility. He's got faith that when he returns, WE CAN FIX IT.

Ahh. Bliss.

So here's my theory: Delving deep into the revision caves isn't going to cripple your ability to write. You may feel a little rusty, but spending so much time on revisions actually makes you a better writer. And makes your inner editor more confident in your abilities.

Do you find that to be the case? Or have you just not had the heart (or the guts) to fire that one inner editor that thinks (s)he needs to rap your knuckles every time you make a mistake? (If that's the case, I really feel for you. I don't know about you, but my knuckles are pansies. There should probably be a Fire Your Inner Editor Support Group.)

34 comments:

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Dood sounds like my kind of guy. Somehow I've always had a certain measure of control over my inner editors. I'm able to shove them in and out of my office as needed. I'm not sure how that happened, but I'm grateful.

Krista M said...

I love the names for your inner editor. And I agree, when you do get better at revision - it seems easier to write and your inner editor gets to take a nice relaxing break. :)

Sara Bulla said...

Loved this! My problem is not editing enough. I think I'm baking brain cookies more than is healthy! Maybe Dood can vacation in my cosmos for a while, help me crank out some good edits! :)

Delia said...

I'm finding that the degree to which Stakeless is present is directly proportional to how confident I am in the my grasp of the story's voice. If I'm comfortable and The Flow is there (you know The Flow), the Dood abides, as it were.

Great post. And now, as always, I want cookies.

Kelley said...

Hey! I think Dood visits me when he's not with you! LOVE that guy :)

I find this is the case. Dood wasn't needed very much when I wrote my current MS (which is my fourth). I'm sure he was happy. :)

Krista said...

Such great advise! My inner editor does not like it when I leave things to be fixed latter. She keeps nagging at me to go back and fix it now and I will feel better. Sigh, that is why I am stalled on my WIP right now.

J. A. Bennett said...

That is probably true, but I need to do more research first, lol.

(BTW, I have a new blog!)

Patti said...

I think I need Dood more often.

Cassie Mae said...

I really think I'm on the Truman Show or something. You always post exactly the problem I'm having. I need to find that surfer dood. :) This next book is just not happening because I can't stifle Miss Stakeless.

Angela Brown said...

Hmmm...Dood. Sounds like quite the wonderful inner editor.

Mine? She probably makes Miss Stakeless seem like a nice little old lady. I don't call her a name. I'm too afraid of her to name her. I'm going to hope your theory works because I really need to get rid of her :-)

Leigh Ann said...

This was SO the case for me. I edited as I went with MS 1 and it slowed me down sooooo much. I just let the words flow with this second MS and I think that, overall, the voice and writing style are much more consistent.

So, for me, your theory stands! :)

Glad you have some DOOD in your life. :)

Rebecca Belliston said...

I needed this today! Thanks. I just fired Miss Stakeless because I'm sick of her looking over my shoulder every minute. She's been holding me back. :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

That's what I like about NaNo because it forces be to shut off that internal editor to get my words. When I first started writing, I didn't want to outline because I didn't want to write the story twice. O_o Wow, have I learned a lot since then--since I'm on Edit #15 of the story. lol

But I've learned that (for me) the real writing happen during the editing. But I can't edit until I have something written to edit.

prerna pickett said...

very good theory. My inner editor is getting better at letting me make mistakes and get back to them later. It's hard, but overtime it can happen for anyone.

Allison Merritt said...

This a wonderful post, Peggy! I hope someday my dream editor happens along. Mine currently loves red, has big Jersey-style hair and comes cloaked in evil.

Ruth Josse said...

How did you fire Miss Stakeless? She looks scary and I'd be afraid of upsetting her.

My inner editor (I'm calling her Edna) caused me to take over a year to write my book. She made me obsess over each chapter so I couldn't move on to the next.

Jaime Morrow said...

Such a great point (about getting better at editing and drafting without your inner editor nagging)! Thanks for sharing this :)

Leigh Covington said...

Thanks to all the awesome blog advice on this, I ignore my inner editor the best I can. Sometimes I cringe as I go back to read things or when it's time to edit, but it helps me move through my draft and I can bring out the editor later :)

Iain said...

I think I need to find an inner editor. At the moment there just seems to be a cavernous echo.
Have you ever considered hiring your head as an entertainment venue? (as a back up plan).

David P. King said...

I've said it before. Dood is awesome!

My inner editor is always a slave driver. It demands edits even while drafting. I blame the delays on my revision on this. But I'm the boss. It will learn to compromise, I'm sure. :)

Sophia Chang said...

Oh man! I was devouring this hoping it would give me the key to the fountain of youth - I mean, to kill my inner editor, but instead it just let me know how awesome you are. LOLOL

Unfortunately, I'm at that in between stage where I'm not a beginner but don't feel like an expert yet (journeyman?) and my editor is saying, "You sucked so much the first draft, don't let this one suck." It's seriously hampering my re-drafting speed.

Carrie Butler said...

My inner editor smells like Play-Doh and looks like the Grim Reaper. He's summoned by stress, so I try to keep my drafting as low key as possible. In fact, if he asks, we never had this discussion... ;)

Great post, Pegasus!

Anonymous said...

My inner editor...such a beast. She won't un-nail me from the floor enough to only allow a strain, let alone pop these blasted six-penny-pests, and let me get to writing. The learning curve on this art is pretty high!

Anonymous said...

You wrote this at 5:56 am? Geeze does this mean to be a writer I have to give up being an all nighter?

Julianne Donaldson said...

I really needed this post! I'm in panic mode right now. Do you have a panic editor? If so, mine is a stressed out white rabbit with a pocket watch in hand saying, "mustn't be late!" That's what writing under a deadline does to me, I guess.

I once had the privilege of talking to Donna Jo Napoli, who is such a brilliant MG/YA author that if you haven't read her yet, stop everything and read something of hers. She is so smart. Anyway, she said that we wear two different hats--the writer's hat and the editor's hat. And it does no good to put on the editor's hat while you're writing (or drafting, as you call it). I've thought about getting an actual hat and wearing it and thereby tricking my brain into behaving. "No, brain, no editing right now. I'm wearing my writing hat."

I think all writers are kind of psychotic in their own unique ways.

Lan said...

I must admit I haven't had the guts to fire my strict inner editor. She still stands over me every second I write and makes a mockery of everything I do. She went on vacation during NaNoWriMo and you know what? I wrote better and a lot more than I usually would have. So your theory is right on the money ;)

Jade Hart said...

I manage to ignore my inner editor till i reach the end of a chapter. Then I'm compelled to go back and do tweaks. It wastes so much time as a few more chapters later I want to add and change and then I have to start all over again. ! :)

Paul Tobin said...

I agree I think revision is essential. I tend to try to get down what I need to then I know I'll revise and edit for ages. Actually I think that's what I also do when writing poetry, get down the essence then revise and polish until I feel it has the best structure.
Good post.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Cynthia-- What a gift! That's beyond awesome.

Krista M-- Ahh. It's so much nicer, isn't it?

Sara-- Wait... what? There's such a thing as an unhealthy amount of brain cookies?! Darn it. Dood has a surfer friend that I'd swear is his twin. I'll Dood him to send him your way! :)

Delia-- Ah. Fascinating theory! I love it! Voice + Flow = Dood. Perfect.

Kelley-- I love Dood, too! It makes me happy when he can get a good long vacation. :)

Krista-- That is SO HARD! It's bad enough when Inner Editor slows the flow, but when they make it stop altogether, it's so frustrating! Best of luck kicking him / her into gear.

J.A.-- Ooo! More research! Let me know the good stuff when you find it. ;) And I'm so excited that you started a new blog! I checked it out, and it's AWESOME.

Patti-- It does you good to have a little more Dood in your life.

Cassie-- Haha! Yes, your own personal Cassie Show. Fire Miss Stakeless! I swear she won't go until you do. And no other inner editor wants to share the space with her (they're all afraid for their knuckles, too).

Angela B-- That made me laugh out loud! Best of luck firing Unnamed. It's scary, that's for sure, but it's worth it!

Leigh Ann-- Oh, true! I hadn't even thought of how much the voice and writing style stays more consistent when an editor like Miss Stakeless is gone. Just one more reason to fire her!

Rebecca-- Ooo! Congratulations!! Has the new one moved in yet? I hope you love him / her.

Donna-- "I didn't want to outline because I didn't want to write the story twice" was the best! That totally made my day. And I agree: the real writing happens during revising.

Prerna-- I agree! Anyone can fire that inner editor that stops them from fixing things later. I'm glad you did! The new Inner Editor is SO much better, don't you think?

Peggy Eddleman said...

Allison-- Hahaha! "Loves red, has big Jersey-style hair" sounded not all that bad. Charming even. And then you got to the "comes cloaked in evil" part. Doh!

Ruth-- Is Edna's last name Stakeless? I'm pretty sure Miss Stakeless has a sister named Edna. I know what you mean about being afraid to upset her (the whole knuckles thing and all), but it's really not that bad! She pretty much just gives you a look for a very long minute, then packs up and leaves. You'll be glad you did it!

Jaime-- Thanks! And you're welcome. :)

Leigh-- True, cringing in re-reading is a by-product of the absence of a very present inner editor. But also: TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Iain-- That's awesome! At least when you're drafting. :) Try offering brain cookies. You'll get inner editors lining up to take the job. Especially if they're pumpkin chocolate chip.

And wait. Are you saying my head is funny looking? ;)

David-- That's right! You just tell him / her what's what! (And maybe offer a bribe. They like bribes.)

Sophia-- Dang. And here I was going for Don't be afraid to drown yourself in edits, because it makes drafting the next book SO MUCH EASIER. Oh, well. We'll call it a Peggy Fail. And imo, it's okay if your revising speed is hampered! Just tell him to not give you so much lip or you're going to move his living quarters to the part of your brain where your imagination lies. Moving so close to monsters and bad guys might get him in line. :)

Carrie-- Hahahaha! My lips are sealed. And ooo! Summoned by stress! Great observation! (And Play-Doh is one of my hubby's favorite smells. I swear I could rub a ball of play-doh across my neck as perfume, and he'd love it. Looking like the grim reaper? Not so much.)

Anon1-- Wow. And I thought Miss Stakeless was bad! Best of luck breaking free! (And yes, it is high, but still TOTALLY DOABLE.)

Anon2-- Wow! Two anonymous comments in one post! That's a first for me. And what are you talking about? Being a writer is all about being an all-nighter! ;)

Julianne-- Ah. The one downside to having your publisher release your book like the day after you sign your contract- the deadline on the next book comes so quickly! I wish you huge amounts of luck, a lack of stress, big chunks of time, loads of inspiration, and a happy family.

I love the hat thing! Why is it that it's so natural for us to wear two hats? I think we're kinda weird.

Lan-- Fire her! If you could convince her to go on vacation, you can convince her to leave. Just remind her how much fun she had. Then you can go back to NaNo speed and quality. :)

Jade-- Having the inner editor stay away for a chapter at a time, at least is something! But urg. I hate when I have to delete or massively change something I've already edited.

Paul-- Sounds like a really good plan! I love it.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I'm really not good at confrontation, but I think my inner editor needs to be fired! Sigh. Want to do it for me :)

Iain said...

I was saying that inside your head is so full of fun things, it'd be a great entertainment venue for visitors.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Susanna-- Me, neither! But I have to admit that it's definitely easier when you don't know the inner editor. So send yours on over! I'll do the deed. ;)

Iain-- I actually got that, and I'm very flattered. Thank you. :D

LisaAnn said...

Hahahaha, I love this! I especially love the fact that you've named your inner editors. I think I need to have a talk with mine and ask them why they've never officially introduced themselves...