Stop looking back. DO NOT EDIT UNTIL YOU ARE FINISHED.
I don't care what you're writing! A novel, a play, a short story, a poem, do not look back until you reach the finish line! There will be loads of time for you to tweak every detail later, but you have to train yourself to just push forward until then. This is something I have an issue with, and nearly lost a very big project because of it. I managed to quit looking back at it, though, and I'm almost done now. But trust me, when I finish, I am going to go back and rip it to shreds. Then I'll neatly reassemble it into this thing we call a novel. Until you are done, though, don't let yourself get caught up in what you've already written. Just stay focused on what you're writing.
You end up with a file, at least. While my inner editor interferes already while I am still in the planning phase. Not realistic enough, illogical, Gary Stu, RP-writing, wrong details, stereotypes, clichés, plagiarism. I see it everywhere. When there is nothing to worry about. For some reason it is easier for me to write something when I don't really care and just mess around for fun.
What helped me about a year ago was taking notes by hand. When I write on paper, it somehow is easier. My notes look very messy, but it still is some psychological trick, because I am able to convince myself that I can fill in stuff and fix things while typing.
Right now I work hard to see the positive. Unintended plagiarism (similar character traits or scenes) always happens, it also means that something actually does make sense and will be interesting for some readers. I am also telling myself that this story project is what I would want to read, that my protagonist is exactly the person I want to meet in a book. Or movie. Or what ever. I am telling myself that tropes are not clichés, archetypes are not stereotypes. That not every tiny little detail has to be correct from the beginning. That even language inconsistencies and character voices can be fixed later.
Time to kill our evil b****es! Let's get the drafts down! Now!
I take extensive notes by hand, but that's all they are: notes. For some reason, I can't sit down and write a story by hand. I have to sit in front of a computer and then the story comes out. But in notes, I can write down what I know is happening.
I'm suggesting this mostly to play devil's advocate, but Embrace your inner editor. Come to the Dark Side! Let the compulsion to edit flow through you!
Being serious, though, I find myself doing the same thing. There will be days where I barely write anything, and instead just pick over what I did the day before, or the day before that. The thing is, I feel like this helps the writing overall, and pretty soon I'll either decide that what I've got is okay or I'll get tired of editing. Whatever happens, I'll then go back and continue the story. I think this sometimes even helps me include new ideas or keep characters consistent. For the record, though, I'm also doing NaNo this year and I'd definitely be having an easier time if I wasn't still thinking about quality.
Lots of people recommend not worrying about how good the writing is and just getting it done, and I think this is fair advice. The problem is, it's become so universally accepted that it's liable to turn into a problem in itself. "If your writing isn't perfect to begin with, you're not a good writer" may just turn into "If that first draft doesn't come together right away, you're not a good writer." Neither is particularly encouraging and neither will help you get the thing written.
All in all, it seems possible that you might get further not by doing anything differently, but by looking at it differently. If you saw all the editing as effort put towards the finished story, might you not have more motivation to carry on working? It's not a guaranteed solution by any means, but I think it's worth considering before starting any struggle to "turn off" your inner editor.
On a totally different note, #WritersInk runs "Write Offs:" chat-based challenges where writers come up with a story/poem in just twenty minutes. Since there's no way you can possibly do any serious editing in that time, it might help you learn to just get words on the page.
Admittedly, that is how I naturally approach writing, but I don't like to recommend it just based on that. If I wanted to churn stuff out like Stephen King I expect I'd have to learn to draft faster and edit better. And I can't be sure that it wouldn't produce better results, too. One of the problems with editing as you go is that you sink quite a lot of time into fairly small bits of writing, so there's a real incentive not to scrap them (ever) even if they're just not working.
Yeah, it seems for NaNo that the only way to reach the goal on time (and at the everyday markers) is only possible if you don't focus solely on quality. /like 15k behind
I think another problem for writers, or just anyone who has to write anything in general, is that schools at the very least (or maybe it's just my area) are stressing the need for success and achievement. I know my English classes stopped requiring drafts years ago, so we'd all turn in papers and more often than not get marked down for simple mechanical errors and disorganization or something. Assuming writers attended schools in this kind of environment, I could see how that mentality of having everything perfect the first time around could stick onto other aspects of the person's lives. Like, maybe artists have the problem, too, where they want that first sketch too be a masterpiece. I dunno, just a thought..
I saw it a while ago and I've been waiting for an opportunity to use it.
I've mostly been getting through NaNo so far by sinking an awful lot of time into it. Personally, I think that as long as you're not using the "cheap tricks" they recommend (chapter summaries included in word count, pointless extended flashbacks at every opportunity) then you've still managed some kind of quality. Getting to 50k is good, but I think the achievement would be marred by the knowledge that your first edit would involve cutting out all the stuff that wasn't actually part of the story.
School really might have something to do with it. At the very least, you're expected to have homework and such polished and ready for reasonably short deadlines, and you save a lot of time by making your first draft more or less your only draft. At my university they did recommend just "getting it done" quickly and then editing later, but even so I don't think it would have been practical to approach it like NaNoWriMo, where you don't need to think about quality at all the first time around.
I don't like the NaNo approach just because is cheap. I'd rather put my all into trying to make what I write of quality than of totally pointless crap. I guess for next year I'll try a different approach to NaNo, as this year I'm aiming for 30,000 words. 40,000 at the most.
no one ever said nanowrimo required you to write 50k of pointless crap. all nano is is 50k in 30 days. the quality is up to you, not the whims of the community who prize quantity over quality. much like anything, nanowrimo is what you make it. if someone just wants to write about zombies and ninjas and dumb nonsense like that (for some reason is terribly clever over there), they're only cheating themselves by wasting their time so who cares. that's their problem, that's their crappy book. it's almost like it doesn't dawn on anyone over there that they can write something decent in 30 days or that that should even be an option. i don't like the community of people at nanowrimo. it seems that if they did something better, that they weren't so limited by their imaginations, they might have some success at what they do.
This is my first time doing NaNo. I wasn't impressed by the community, so next year I'll most likely just use the site for the word counter and the fancy stats page.
Fear is actually very important to me. I'm afraid by many things, so I use that fear as the backbone for what I write. But I don't think my fear of monsters in the closet is what you're aiming at. So I'll take a guess at anxiety, which is a dictating factor in my life. My fear of rejection or failure is quite strong, enough to make me not want to even try. I've recently adopted a mental metal baseball bat to combat my anxiety, but it doesn't go away completely. For example: Saw your message in my inbox. Started freaking out over whether or not you're going to smack me upside the head or something.
Fear is what I'm comfortable with. Fear also leads to hope. I like to sit out around and think about what could be, then I fear the result of what is. That's enough to inspire me to write the opposite of what I fear so I can, for that moment, bask in that hope. Two negatives make a positive anyway.
I agree. And 30,000 would make for quite a respectable novella (unless you're just doing the first 30,000 of a longer book, in which case it would still be a very good start).
I found it quite hard to plot a story that was sure to hit 50,000 without seriously overshooting it. I'm on nearly 40,000 now, and it's looking more likely that I'll have to pad it out a bit to "win" NaNoWriMo officially.
If you find yourself editing a lot as you go, or stopping/starting and going back to edit before you've finished, then I would recommend free or automatic writing as an exercise. Just write whatever comes to your head without editing, do not cross anything our, correct for punctuation, grammar, etc. If this is the way you're used to writing, it will be hard at first, but after a while it should be pretty easy to train yourself out of the backtracking. Important thing is to finish the draft. Worry about whether it's "right" when you're finished.
I've had issues with that stupid little voice as well and ultimately I just have to stop listening and just write.
I tried your exercise and after a few minutes of thinking of something to write, I just kind of typed out my inner ramblings. Then I got to an actual plot area and was stumped. So I guess free or automatic writing only works for me when writing out detailed descriptions...then again, I guess if I were to practice it more I would get better at it.
If you're trying to work out the plot, it does help to have an idea in mind of where you're going. That is, for the technique to produce more useful material, less rambling. The main idea is to get you over initial misgivings and then learn to work through the tendency to backtrack and correct as you go. You might want to consider using it mainly as a warm-up to get you started, or as a way to produce more like an outline.
I actually make a distinction between free and automatic writing, because the latter really implies no planning beforehand and just spitting things out as you go. It was method used by the Surrealists, borrowed from Spiritualism, who used it mainly as a channeling technique. Free writing involves more planning or fore-thought.
The other trick that I can't believe I forgot to mention is embracing the shitty first draft, which is an idea I totally stole from an essay by Anne Lamott. It's OK if it's not perfect the first time and you ramble a little or the plot is a mess or whatever. Accept that it will suck and your inner editor will learn to back off. Your inner editor is probably a little different than mine, but I've had issues with every stupid line being precious and honing every detail to perfection, when I should just be writing the story and worrying about that crap later. I have lots of drafts left unfinished because of this (plus my reticence to plan in advance).
No, no. I spend more time planning (and kill more trees...) than I do writing. I literally have journals upon journals of hundreds of different outlines for one story. I even go so far as investing in sticky notes and index cards so I can write out themes and chapters and physically arrange them into a sequence of events.
But yeah, I do need to work on getting past that "everything must be perfect the first time" mentality. I'll keep working with the free and automatic writing techniques to see if they help me. Thank you~<3
Oh wow, you're much better planner than I am. I wrote for many many years before I ever sat down and seriously planned a story. It took lots of convincing (mainly from a couple people on this website) to really do it. And I still don't put that level of effort into it, like notecards and stuff. That's kind of impressive. My first drafts are sometimes like bloated outlines and even though I have mostly everything mapped out before I begin, I work a lot of things out on the page.
Anyway, pardon my rambling. I'm glad my comments have been helpful!
Well, it got to the point where I'd be typing up my story as it come to me and I'd get really deep into it, but then I always thought of the tiniest little details that would've made all the difference if I had used them earlier. Then I started writing brief summaries of what it was I wanted to write per chapter so I'd remember to include everything in. Then, as I started moving out of fanfiction and towards original work, I realized that my characters needed mental development so when I used them in my stories they wouldn't be like blank sheets of paper waiting to be scribbled on. So I'd write down a brief biography of each character. It really evolved into journals and notecards when I realized that writing summaries led to writing chapters plainly as if I were telling it to a friend in great detail minus the dialogue and setting. I guess the notecards (color coded, of course) help me really plan out the story. One color would be major plot points, another would be subplots, and others would be minor details, characters that would pop up, etc. Even after planning, I still need to go back to my work and fix it up. My ultimate goal is write my characters and story so well that they almost seem like real living, breathing people. I put enough effort into it all, so it might as well pay off in the end. XD
...Now pardon my ramblings, lol. And really, I mean it when I say "thank you," because you've really been one of the most helpful and I truly appreciate it. <3
During NaNo, it seems that turning off my inner editor is a challenge. I just use panic and some tunes to drown out their ridiculing and demonic critiques. The faster or more I type the harder it seems that the inner editor can keep up with it and just keep typing. Ignore the little voice in your head that saying 'it sucks' 'that's the best you can come up with?' 'that's not right, start over.' etc. that's not the helpful voice that I need to listen. Tell it to take a hike and I'll edit it in December. (procrastination is a good thing in this case) that's little maddened perfectionist editor is really Lucifer coming to drag you through hell during NaNo.
Don't completely ignore it though, listening to it can get my butt in the chair and in front of the keyboard, it also notes little things like missing words and punctuation have a time and place and can really help the word count.
Panic is one of my best motivators, also, a calculator. I try to figure out how many words I need to write for the day, for instance, if I have 1485 words to write I look only at the last two numbers. In this case, 85. I can write 85 words (which is more manageable and less overwhelming than 1485) and if I do more and it becomes 1397 left, then I do 97 more. lather, rinse and repeat the same pattern until I've got my word goal done for the day.
I don't. I'm a so-so writer, but my editor improves my work significantly. You may disagree abut whether I write quality work, but trust me when I say it would be FAR weaker without him. So: I never turn him off, ever!
I'm not here to judge your writing. I mean, in my opinion, I suck at writing. XD I feel like such an idiot when I write, and then I'll read it over and think it's just plain stupid. That's probably why I edit so much...
I know you aren't. Hey, wait, why aren't you? C'mon, have a crack at it, y'know you want to... See, over the years I have noticed that many inferior writers are the first to hurl their stuff at publishers. They think themselves geniuses and never hesitate! The rest of us keep whittling away at our work, trying to be truly great, and not just rich or even published. In the end, even if the other guys make it, they'll flash and burn out quickly. You will someday be heralded, even if you hoard the stuff so badly that no one sees it until you pass away many years from now. Don't give up! Don't surrender! Work with your editor, not against! And start critiquing my stuff more often ...
...You are very convincing...XD I don't really have any intentions of publishing. I write simply because I have a story in my head with characters that won't leave me the hell alone until I write it down and they're satisfied. You want me to critique your stuff? XD
I know what you mean. In the abstract, I would love to be published, I would look at my pile of work and say, "1) There is too little quality stuff to fill a book! 2) They always want a sophomore book if you are even remotely good, and look how long it took me to barely make this pile!" So I'm in no rush either. Well, it isn't an order, of course, but call it an open invitation, sure! While diplomacy would be nice, you needn't pretend to like anything you read, either. Criticism will toughen my skin against what pro editors will do, and maybe help me learn things about myself and my writing that I missed. One Deviant helped me see that three stories waiting for me to write them aren't necessarily the laughable disasters that I thought, but stories with real potential if I put my back to them. She offered some fantastic criticisms and suggestions that inspired me, and I try to pass that on when and if I can. Some folks freak out at criticism, but most take it well, whether they agree with it or not. I try to stay in that second group. So I won't snap at you, promise, or laugh at you if you don't see what I thought I wrote...
My fear of publishing is...dear God, what if they make me go on a talk show? Or worse, what if, for whatever reason, my book is turned into a movie? Because movies always stray from the book!! D: Irrational delusional fears, but whatever. XD And besides, we live in the Internet era, where every one gets everything for free one way or another, so I might as well let my hobby be free to others than imposing a legit published work on them. I figure one day, when I have successfully typed and edited my epic masterpiece, I'll self publish a hardcover copy for myself to keep and hold and love...but until then. Meh.
I always ask for harsh critique and rarely ever get it. "That was really good!" and "I liked it!" are the most common and most unhelpful comments I get when I do get comments. :\ So really, the only criticism I really get is from my real life friend who not only looks over my stuff here and points out every individual flaw, but also looks over my initial notes and outlines. She's like...my criticizer and editor...<3 Granted, she gets her critique style from me. XD I will literally sit there, copy and paste a story into a comment, and comment on every minor detail. /whoops. :'D
Wow, we're like bookends! I don't fear the movie adaptation as much, largely because I write flash fiction and short-shorts. Not much to hang a movie on. But I would dread being asked to appear on vapid talk shows; not wanting to seem elitist but also having no patience for that plastic, pre-chewed nonsense. Well, I'm also trying to buck up a friend of mine who's in a bad way tonight, but when I get a chance, I'll be happy to criticize one of your pieces, if you want. I'm always willing to offer whatever perspective I can. I'm often tempted to nitpick every line, and that's when I sometimes get chewed out for my audacity. But when I find too darn many, I zoom out and simply say things like, "Quite a few comma splices here" or "The character's language doesn't seem suited to their background". Those aren't real quotes; just my approach. Well, heck, you can my critiques if you wish. They aren't all literary. I tried to cover stories, poems, photography, drawings, paintings, comic strips, you name it. Even some adult stuff. If you feel comfortable with my approach, let me know and I'll pick something of yours to critique.
I think I would just die of a heart attack if I had to go on a talk show...XD
If you want to critique any of my work, you go right ahead. Again, I ask for harsh critiques if you can. I, meanwhile, am browsing through your prose (I'm not one for poetry...cuz I don't get it...XD).
Editing is a pain in the ass so I have no problem putting it off. For shorter works that means I completely write them, leave them alone for a few days and then go and edit as needed. Though I'm a bit lazy when it comes to shorter works so there are several pieces just waiting to be polished off..
For longer works I usually give myself a 2-3 chapter head start, put out a new chapter per week, and edit a chapter at a time as I release them. So I basically have Sunday set aside as an edit day for them. It's a rare moment when I actually have to go back and do major changes despite not doing that much planning(though I suppose it's all organized in my head ).
you are making this happen. you are the reason you have self-doubt. you are the inner editor. you can have the power to stop the inner editing whenever you want. there is no secret. you just have to stop. you have to start believing in yourself more.