Tuesday, November 5, 2019

NaNoWriMo: Silencing Your Inner Editor

In my local NaNoWriMo group this week, someone asked, "How do I kill my inner editor?" After another writer recommended not to kill the inner editor but to send it on a month-long spa retreat instead, I let my mind drift to what my inner editor is up to this month. If I had to put an image to it, I'd have to say mine is tied up in a closet with duct tape on her mouth - and I know she's going to come out of the closet in an angry whirlwind the moment I open the door on December 1st.

Not revising as I go is always a struggle for me during NaNoWriMo. I don't have as hard a time with writing during the month as I do with not looking back - vomiting the words onto the paper and not saying to myself, "well, that sentence could use a little tweaking, what if I changed this phrasing around? Oh, but I used the same word in that other sentence, that one could use some work too..." and before I know it, I've spent an hour revising what I've already written and I have 137 fewer words than I did when I started. I mean, the other day I wrote this gem:
The metal melted at her touch, the soft metal weaving its way around her wrist into a series of interlinking cuffs with a pleasing sound of singing metal.
Gross. It's like it was a challenge to see how many times I could use the word "metal" in one sentence.

Over and over, like an inner mantra, I keep telling myself that NaNoWriMo is just about getting the words on the page. It's just about writing something with reckless abandon and not caring too much about the prose. One of my writer friends is struggling with prose that's too flowery. I've got clunky "telling" phrases everywhere you look, and I've seen no sign of that letting up anytime soon. One lucky friend is getting things pretty darn near perfect on the first try. (I swear she sold her soul or something.)

Allowing myself to write badly is hard. When I was growing up, every time I'd sit down to write, I'd start at the beginning of the manuscript and revise as I went until I got to where things left off. Of course, as the manuscript got longer, this meant I'd run out of time to put any new words in the document and I ended up revising the same first 50 pages over and over without having a good sense of where those 50 pages were going.

Fighting fifteen years of habit is hard, but this year, I think I've finally found a work-around. Every time I leave off writing, I leave a comment for myself about what just happened in the plot and where I see it going next. This keeps me from going back to read what I wrote yesterday and getting caught up with critiquing my writing. Refreshing the barest outline of yesterday's words is enough to get me going again, and I'm not tearing my hair out because my word count suddenly dropped. There are eleven months every year that aren't NaNoWriMo; I want to use this one for its intended purpose.

I hope all of your inner editors are on a warm, sandy beach somewhere far away from your works in progress, and I hope you'll be able to welcome them back without too much of a reality check when December gets here!


  1. My inner editor transmutes in November from an annoying wasp into a pollen butterfly which sprinkles phrases from one day to the next. Which means I pinch key phrases from one day to spark next day's words. It works with a crime novel where one clue triggers my detectives next move along her plotted path - with diversions.

  2. Last year, my local MLs created a "jail box" for people to lock up their inner editors and the negative voices that say you can't do it.


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