Tuesday, January 18

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 19 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.

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.

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.

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?
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  1. I don't even bother shushing my IE anymore. No, I usually just write slower. But, here's the thing, I love how you put things in paranthesis you can't think of right then. I do that too. It takes the stress off.

  2. I don't have any tricks so all of these help a lot!

  3. Great ideas Laurel. I write myself notes all the time too.

  4. Great ideas :) If I know I'm not getting a scene right then I'll highlight it and make a comment for it to the right of the page, saying what I don't like about it.

  5. All great advice, good lady!

    And you already know how I make notes to myself. (The all-caps yelling thing. *sigh*)

  6. My IE will *not* shut up. Ever. My early dialogue scenes look just like yours :)

  7. These. Are. BRILLIANT. I've been struggling with the pesky IE lately (especially as my current WIP involves more complex language than I actually speak), and this is very helpful. I'd already started implementing the highlight to plop descriptions in later, but these will help me even more. Another good approach is to add comments via the Review section of Word. You can easily find comments, but they don't mess up the text of the work itself. Good post!

  8. I keep a paper handy and make notes, 'fix this in this scene' and someitmes it gets very long.

  9. Thanks for the tips! I never really thought about using brackets--but it does make sense to put them in in the first draft, to silence the IE.

  10. Angela: It's such a simple technique to keep track of things you want to add, even if you can't think of the perfect thing at the moment. One problem with writing slow is you can stall more easily, I've found.

    Saumya: It's interesting that I've not seen anyone else blog about this either! glad it's helpful.

    Charity: Staying organized while keeping the flow going is really key.

    Bethany: good plan. Often the ideas for rewriting will come to you later.

  11. Simon: We all got a kick out of your notes to yourself in drafts you've brought to group--and how snarky they can be. :-) Whatever works, right?

    Tara: So funny. I almost always write out dialogue like it's a script the first go-around, and have to later layer in punctuation and tags and action/thought/emotion beats.

    Colene: Thanks. Thought I'd share my recent tricks after being very stuck for a while.

  12. JEM: Good techie point--about using the Review tools. I just recently discovered the joy of leaving revisions undone until revision stage. Freedom!

    Susan: I have a separate Word document with a running commentary on the overall plot flow and notes (in a different color type) about changes to make in revision. Pieces of paper have a way of growing legs in my house.

    GE: the IE does want the best for us, so I see the brackets as an appeasement. :-) It's a nod to her, saying "yes, IE, I hear you that this scene needs a better description, or an action, etc. I'll do it later."

  13. These are really good! I had to use the "go back later" rule as I was finishing up my draft. Half-way through a deleted two characters and instead of going back and taking them out of every scene they were in, I just kept going without them there. That made taking them out even easier later because I had been without them so long it was simple to think of ways to pull them out (they weren't doing much anyhow which is why they were deleted in the first place).

    Thanks, Laurel!

  14. These tips are great! I'm going to use them! Thanks!

  15. Using Scrivener has helped because each scene has a notebook on the side. And I type in any major changes or notes to myself there. That has helped with the IE!

  16. Great tips! I'll use some of them in the future. Sometimes, I just leave big gaps in the script - as in there's a hole to fill here! Thanks.

  17. Thanks for the tips! I also have a lot of trouble turning off my IE. Mine also likes to skip back a couple paragraphs and start critiquing things I just wrote ten minutes ago, stalling progress. To get it to stop I sometimes insert non-specific bracketed comments promising to let it do its critiquing thing later, such as [This paragraph sucks, revise].

  18. Lisa: It's so freeing, isn't it? And as you keep going, you get more ideas for front end fixes to add to the revision to-do list.

    Kristen: glad you found them helpful.

    Mary: I tend to do the opposite--write scenes that don't deserve being dramatized. It's less painful to axe them later if I didn't agonize over the wording.

    Brent: I love your example. I have plenty of [this isn't working, try again] notes to myself too. :-)