Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 12 comments
Shushing my Internal Editor (IE) is always a tricky task for me. I don't have the luxury of shutting off this side of my brain for months at a time, because I need dear, old IE for my day job. I have, however, come up with a few tricks to keep her quiet when I'm drafting.

Highlighting

Photo credit: xandert from morguefile.com
Say you're happily drafting and suddenly get a brilliant idea that's going to make the whole story freaking awesome, BUT you'll need fix an entire earlier plotline to make it work. At times like this, IE rubs her hands with gleeful anticipation of your stopping dead in your tracks to revise.

The good news is you don't have to perfect the earlier scenes in order to keep going. You just need to keep track of changes you'll need to make during the next draft. In other words, NOTE the needed changes, but don't actually make them.

At the end of your drafting session, go back to earlier sections and highlight material that you will need to change. (This function is in the Font menu in MS Word.) Drop notes to yourself in brackets about why you plan to revise and possible ways you might do so. Voila! You've captured your ideas without losing your flow.

Brackets

IE likes my drafts to read very smoothly the first go-round, which is of course, ridiculous. Drafting is messy. It's about getting ideas onto paper/screen as quickly as possible.

When IE starts nagging me about something I've left out, I've realized I can usually shut her up pretty fast if I leave myself a quick note in brackets.

Some of my messier dialogue looks like this:

T: [action beat] What are you doing?

D: What does it look like I'm doing?

T: Hiding. We do have a dishwasher, you know.

[Describe: He steps closer, sweeps a little cloud of bubbles off her nose. Her visceral reaction.]

At at a later phase, I can decide how many dialogue tags I need, if any. I can also take the time to hunt for the perfect words to describe how my protagonist reacts bodily to an intimate gesture from someone she's fuming mad at.

Alternately, I might decide I don't want these characters fighting at this juncture. I may end up tossing this whole scene. The lovely thing is, I haven't agonized over the wording and become so married to it I can't bear to part with it. It's a choppy little experiment I can revise or cut with no hard feelings.

Slashes

There are times of day when my inner dictionary-thesaurus goes kaput and I can't readily call to mind the perfect word to capture my meaning. When I'm otherwise on a roll, I don't want to waste energy googling synonyms or flipping though reference books. Instead, I just plunk down a word cluster that approximates my meaning, separated with slashes. For example:

Towels from the middle of the stack slip and he dances/skitters/flounders around trying to right them.

During revision, I can search for slashes and make a decision then, based on what sounds best in the line and doesn't echo something else on the page.

What tricks do you use to keep the Inner Editor quiet when you're drafting? Have any other ideas for keeping your flow going?

12 comments:

  1. This is incredibly helpful! I have so much trouble reigning in my IE. I'm looking forward to trying out these devices!

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    1. Glad you found the post useful. Some editing as you go might just be part of your process, but when flow comes, it's helpful to have tools to keep it going.

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  2. I LOVE this!!!!! What a fabulous collection of insights. I often want to stop and edit, then get ill when I miss things...the constant battle is a witch!!! Sometimes literally...

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    1. Make a little sign for your desk: I CAN ALWAYS CHANGE IT LATER. :-)

      Things like the brackets and slashes may be your best tools--it's easy to use the search tool to find spots you know were placeholders.

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  3. Something that has helped me is track changes on word. It lets me do quick notes as I read through so I can easily find them all when I'm done.

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    1. I think you might mean the "comment" tool. Track changes will mark every new thing with redlining. That might prove distracting to some.

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  4. I try not to listen to the urge when I'm drafting. Usually I have music playing that helps me stay with the emotion instead of the logistics. Then I go back and fix all that stuff later. It's hard turning off IE when I'm reading for pleasure tho!!

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    1. Editing for a living makes is loads harder to "not listen"; I envy those who can let the words gush unhindered. I have to resort to trickery. LOL. But yeah, if I find I'm wanting to edit a published book as I read, I often don't finish it.

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  5. My IE is sometimes my best friend and worst enemy.

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    1. I know just what you mean. You likely write cleaner drafts, but the process is slow.

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  6. Love that dialogue idea!

    When drafting in Word, I use the comment feature to make quick notes to myself. And when I've written something particularly hideous that I know will need complete rewriting, I highlight it in red.

    P.S. Love that cheeky blog post title. :)

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    1. The comments function is a good idea, though it does make the viewable page space smaller.

      My title was especially cheeky with the typo in it. Groan. That's what went into everyone's feeds, even though I fixed later. My internal editor was tricked especially well I guess. :-)

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