Independence--From My Internal Editor (Sydney Salter)

A snarky voice creeps into your mind as you stare at that awkward sentence that's supposed to hook your readers into the next page, you know, in your awesome page-turning novel... But somehow you're not quite writing that manuscript. It's a mess. You know it. And your mean internal editor knows it. She's stabbing the inside of your brain with a huge red pen, screaming, "Cut! Cut! Cut! All of it sucks! You suck. Go clean something. You're a terrible housekeeper, not an artist." And then she cackles.

Ah, the internal editor, always trying to keep word count low and progress slow.

I've learned to distance myself from that doubting voice by fast-drafting during National Novel Writing Month. Both My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters and Swoon At Your Own Risk were written during those crazy November sessions. I made six Thanksgiving pies between writing sessions! Somehow the process works for me--I pound out words without rereading and criticizing until I complete a manuscript that can be revised. Sure, I find huge messy sections, but I always find good stuff too.

Now there's some scientific evidence that fast-drafting works. In Imagine, Jonah Lehrer has a chapter called "Letting Go" in which he says on page 104, "We are so worried about playing the wrong note or saying the wrong thing that we end up with nothing at all, the silence of the scared imagination." Lehrer never mentions NaNoWriMo, but his research definitely encourages us to let go and create without editing. ***

That's why I'm going to try out Camp NaNoWriMo tomorrow: 50,000 words in August. I'm looking forward to ditching my internal editor and discovering my story--without baking all those pies.

*** UPDATE: So apparently, Lehrer used even more fiction techniques, faking some of his anecdotes, etc. Read about it here on NPR's blog. The publisher is offering refunds for people who purchased the book. I'm still going to let go while I write tomorrow, even if the Bob Dylan stuff is all bunk.


  1. Like Wayne Gretzky said, "You miss 100% of the shots you never take." I figure it if works for hockey, it works for writing, too. So congrats for slamming those pucks at the net -- finesse is for second drafts! (But I've read your novels -- you've got finesse in droves!)

  2. I do the same thing for first drafts, Sydney! I try to pound out 5,000 words a day. At that pace, I don't have time to second-guess. Works like a charm!


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