Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The inner editor

I've talked about the inner editor before. It's the culprit behind writer's block. It's what you're thwarting if you want to try being tired to see if it makes you more creative. But the inner editor does serve a purpose.

In a first draft, you're basically tossing things out to see what sticks. You're generating ideas, trying out concepts, and seeing what works. At that stage, you don't want to listen to the voice in your head that tells you how much you suck. At that point, you want permission to suck. You can clean up all the random spew off the page in the editing phase.

It's in the later drafts that the inner editor finally serves a purpose. The inner editor is there to evaluate which plot threads and characters are important. It's there to slice off great swaths of dialogue, to sweep out all the scenes that don't serve the story, to kill your darlings (which is a post for a later time). It's there to keep the book grounded. It's there to make sure the sentences are strung together properly and in an order that makes sense.

If you don't have an inner editor, now would be a good time to get one. You need to read up on the grammar rules, take a writing workshop, and read some comments from publishers about why they didn't accept the books they didn't. A lack of an inner editor is why things like this happen, when an author goes off at length about how people's perceptions are wrong.

Granted, one can't anticipate all of people's criticisms, and one can't step outside one's own perspective to see it the way others will. But, without admitting there are flaws in the first place, when other people see them (and they will), you'll react poorly.

No one's writing is perfect. Some of the most-loved classics have one-star reviews online. (Despite the article writer's apparent belief that all of the reviewers are idiots, sometimes it gets down to taste and preference.) But one can't improve without seeing the flaws in what you're writing, and fixing it. Sometimes that means a writing group. Sometimes that means an editor. Most of the time, though, it means you have to look it over, yourself, find what's wrong, and eliminate it.

So, while the inner editor is the killer of productivity and the slayer of creativity, it does serve a purpose. Every writer needs to have one. It just needs to be tamed so it only comes out when you need it.

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