Thursday, January 27, 2011

My External Editor is a Real Drag

Current Project:Status: Inching forward

I’ve decided my main problem in writing is not my Internal Editor; it’s my External Editor. One of my critique partners pointed out last night that I was a technical editor for over four years. ‘Editor’ was my role and my mindset. No wonder I have trouble turning that off and finishing the damned book! (And no wonder I was driving my poor critique partners crazy with line edits!)

That’s why it took me three years to write my first First Draft. I’d learn a new piece of the craft puzzle, then go back and fix what I’d already written—in other words, EDIT. That’s also why trying to write a Textnovel and doing Nano were so good for me. Writing a First Draft at breakneck speed emphasizes to my subconscious that I am a WRITER, not an editor.

Speed sets my creative, big-picture right brain free. Revisions are the place for my dominant, analytical left-brain (affectionately known as the Big E.) to come out of the closet and do its editing thing.

Now that I know this about myself, I’m learning to keep my editor in check and stay focused on my goal of writing first drafts all the way through to the Happily Ever After. I make notes of the things I notice in passing, which helps to quiet the Big E.

If you have a Big E. attached to your identity like I do, remember that any way you can trick her into going against her nature and embracing the Stillness like this swallow (Have you noticed swallows seem to fly constantly?) is a good thing.
All's fair in love and writing!


Paty Jager said...

Great post, Sarah!

I've been using my mini laptop to write because 1) I hate reading e-mails on it the screen is so small so I don't access the internet when I'm writing and 2) I find I have less typing mistakes therefor I don't keep rereading sentences and 'fixing' them. I just fly forward and fix things when I come back the next day. It has upped my word count and keeps me focused on the writing and in the moment.

But I have since editing been more critical of my own writing and will spend fifteen minutes finding the right word in mid sentence. When I should write the first thing that comes along and fix it later.

Sarah Raplee said...

I know you've worked as a book editor, so I'm not surprised you've developed some Big E. coping mechanisms! Thanks for the tips, Paty.

Genene Valleau said... external editor. That's an interesting perspective.

I was a newsletter editor for years and also wrote many of the articles, so was used to writing the story and then editing to fit the space, tightening the message in the next pass.

Now that I think about it, that's generally how I write novels too. Good training, I guess!

But you're right about having to learn to just dump words on a page and not edit (a little or a lot!) as I write. That's something I still have to work on.

Thanks for a new perspective!

Sarah Raplee said...

Thanks for commenting, Genene!
I think a lot of us who have trouble getting out that first draft have worked as editors one way or another. It's a chicken-or-egg-first question: Were we drawn to editing because we're programmed that way, or is it hard to unlearn the training?

Maybe it doesn't really matter. One way or another, we need to squelch the Big E. during our first drafts. :)