Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog AND Attack of the Internal Editor

It’s Lydia’s turn to discuss the importance of stories! Click here for her post.


I can say with relative confidence that my writing skills have steadily improved over the past two years. I can also safely say that I’m a fast-paced, sometimes sloppy panster at heart. Seriously. Every time I try to outline, I veer off of it in less than a paragraph. I’m not kidding.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that along with increasing skill comes increasing persnicketiness about what I write. This has benefits and drawbacks. I can admit–despite my rushed seat-of-the-pants-writerly-ways–it’s good to slow down and take my time in crafting a novel. It forces me to choose awesome words instead of good ones. BUT, the pressure of picking the RIGHT word the first time often leads me to a stand still. Like literally.

Case in point. My most recent WIP (a middle grade adventure that I actually outlined! Holy shizz!) has been a complete blast to develop. The first four chapters practically wrote themselves. Yet it’s gotten to the point that every time I open the document, I freeze. I can’t decide what words to put on the page. What order do I want to write them? Who do I want to say what? Where do I want to put the description? What description do I want to include?

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!!!

A surge of frustration forces–yes, forces!–me to procrastinate. I look at Facebook, Twitter, online forums. I watch an episode of South Park, The Office, or Family Guy.

Two hours later, I return to the MS and fret some more. Why hasn’t the word count risen? (Duh. Cuz I didn’t write anything. Geez.)

What’s happening? Well, in my effort to “prove” I’m a good writer, I have unleashed the Hell beast otherwise known as the Internal Editor (cue horror movie soundtrack here). Any writerly person is very familiar with this monster. When properly fed and cared for, the internal editor can actually be helpful, even friendly. But when little devil runs amok through a first draft, it’s akin to a disaster.

So, dear friends, I’d love to hear from you what strategies have helped you tame Internal Editor.

I’ll start the dialogue by sharing my strategy:

  1. I free write. Screw picking great words. Just get the damn scene on the page.
  2. I re-read what I just wrote…and am pleasantly surprised it’s not as icky as I’d imagined.
  3. I crit someone’s work.
  4. I read a book and “take notes” from the pros.
  5. I take a break. Burn out doesn’t do anybody any good. Just sayin’.
  6. I try to stop being my own worst enemy and let myself off the hook. It’s impossible to be perfect the first go around, so why set such an unrealistic goal? Right? Right.

Alrighty folks, your turn.

Hell beast, AKA Internal Editor. He also goes by the name Phil.

18 comments on “Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog AND Attack of the Internal Editor

  1. randomyriad says:

    When I am completely blocked, I will choose a section of a story or a chapter of a novel I am reading and rewrite it in my own words changing bits of it (tense, point of view, names, time period, locations, actions etc.) as I go. I usually get some interesting results that morph into an original story or at least an idea that I can work with. I almost always end up with a kernel of something that I build on. It helps me to get out of the prison of my own writing.

  2. Lynn Rush says:

    Okay, that picture is AWESOME!!!!

    The internal editor. Ahhh, that little stinker rears its ugly head once in a while. I usually go for a run or bike and kick its butt to the curb!!!

    I really believe in free writing. When I feel my editor starting to tighten it’s vise grip around my brain, I shake my head and tell myself, “Just write. I can go back and fix anything.”

    That helps, too!

    So, write on, my friend.

  3. It’s tough not to edit while writing. I’m with you on the just get the scene down. That’s the most important part cause without the writing, there’s not to edit.

    I actually keep two files open when I’m writing the WIP and WIP Notes where I write down stuff so my I.E. will leave me alone and let me write. That way, I don’t get sidetracked with researching the protocol for loss of conciousness for more than 15 minutes. I just got to my WIP Notes and write: research page 32 – loc. Or: page 5 – find better word for walk. Then, I keep on writing.

  4. Great pic!

    And uh, I don’t turn her off. I let her edit. I give her ten pages to get it out of her system, and then I WRITE the next page. If she needs to edit it, fine. Then I write the next one. We work together in a delicate balance.

  5. OMG! I am struggling with my internal editor on my novel WIP right now! I’m working on this novel, and I was having all kinds of trouble with it, so I signed up for a creative writing class that focuses on novels for kids, and SHAZAM – enter my Internal Editor. Because, darn it, I want the work I hand in for this class to be GOOD. Or even BETTER THAN GOOD.

    This post is SO timely for me.

    My solution so far has been to write everything. Every idea, every plot turn, every variation on that sentence, everything I can think of for a scene. I write a scene one way, and if that little internal editor pipes up and says, “no, do it THIS way!” I just put the alternative in parentheses. Or if it’s a major change to the scene, I just insert a page break and start the scene over. And over. And over. I’m looking at four different versions of a scene right now. It. Is. KILLING. Me! But, at least my Internal Editor is happy, and now that it’s all out I can step back and look at it and be more objective about what is and isn’t working.

    I hope.

  6. Oh, I adore Phil!!! He’d be sooo easy to lock in a closet while I write. Preferably the farthest closet in the farthest room. 😉

  7. LOL–Laura, I love that kitty/Chihuahua half-breed thing you’ve got going there. 😉

    *HUGS* I’m sorry for the frustrations you’ve been facing. There was a time where I hit a huge wall and couldn’t get past it. I spent months–MONTHS–helping others with their work.

    Until one day, it hit me. Guess what? All I had to do was give myself permission to let myself write without worrying about ‘writing rules’ and ‘future audiences’.

    This was my dilemma: My novels have a common elemental theme: action with some romance. Well, I started a romance romance and was confused about how I was going to do it because the only conflict involved was between the two love-interests and there weren’t any villains. That was hard.

    I thought, well, let’s try it anyway and write the story with internal conflicts along with external. I had certain characters arise that helped enrich my book. And then I was back again and finished my book soon!

    Thanks for this wonderful post!

    Btw, please e-mail me if you ever need me to bounce ideas off of. I’m really GOOD at helping generating ideas.

    ~Elizabeth 🙂

  8. I like your list. I have suffered the same enigma. Sometimes words flow, and then PHIL steps in, and everything stops while I get my Thesaurus running like a windmill! Soon all I can think of is a better word or a finer phrase. The plot, the character, all else is on the altar sacrificed to the art of EXCELLENCE! I vow to stop it. Just stop it.

  9. Lydia K says:

    I have to admit, I write fiction the way I write poetry sometimes. I just get it down, in all its ugly plainness, and change it after to make it work the way I want. It’s hard, but it works for me.

    By the way, your comment on my blog totally made me laugh. I responded by saying, “You stole my thunder!” so what else was I going to write about? I also changed my post to give you credit where credit was due!

  10. I actually go through a lot of the same process as you. I don’t know why we do this but as I learned more about writing, the more I changed.


  11. Elle Strauss says:

    Great post! The internal editor can be a nasty foe, but I like your list of ways to overcome. I’ll try some of them when I stop procrastinating!

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