The inner editor can be a great asset that improves your writing, but it can also act as a barrier to progress. During National Novel Writing Month, everyone places a lot of focus on silencing that inner editor. If we didn’t, those 50,000 words would never get written in just one month. The inner editor is that voice in your head that tells you to backspace certain words in favor of others, cut entire swaths of your story, and generally improve upon what you’re creating. While this can be disastrous for someone speed-writing their way toward a large word count goal, it can be a great help to anyone moving at a slower pace and wishing to put out their best product.
Of course, that best product is not going to be created on your first try. I don’t know anyone who can create a perfect first draft. So, no matter how much you indulge your inner editor while writing, you’re going to have to call upon her again once you’ve finished. I recently found a post about learning how to use your inner editor, which was written by Denise Long.In her post, Denise has some great advice regarding editing, including the need for distance from your piece and the idea that you should beat up your manuscript, but not yourself. But I especially like what she has to say about editing and perspective:
Next, change your perspective. When you’re writing a draft, you often become caught up in the moment of the piece; the story, the characters, the scenes, and action all become a part of you. The self-editing process, however, should be about thinking critically from the outside looking in. For some writers, a change in location or medium can help shift thinking. If you typically use a particular room in your house to write, set up camp elsewhere to edit. If you’re used to reading your work on the screen, consider printing it out when it’s time to revise. Something as simple as a new backdrop or holding physical pages in your hand can help refocus your mind and energy.
Denise is right — the mindset that we have when writing is totally different from the one we should have when editing. This goes along with the concept of gaining distance from your story. In order to effectively edit your own work, you must remove yourself from it. Writing is such an engrossing activity, one in which the author dives head first into their project and doesn’t come out again until it’s finished. It’s important to avoid diving back in when you go to edit your work. Instead, stand back and look at your work through new eyes to see what needs to be changed.
So, if you’re beginning to edit, remember that you must sometimes take time to switch that inner editor back on and distance yourself from the story you were embedded in. Once you’ve learned that — and you might have to learn it multiple times — you’re ready to edit.
Happy Writing! And if any of you are past that stage, Happy Editing!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan