Friday, July 9, 2010

Sending the Inner Editor on a Long Holiday

The ever present, ever cautious, constantly interfering   inner editor is a nuisance we writers can do without. The inner editor  which  is  our inherent, intrinsic and individual sense of right or wrong can be detrimental to the process of writing. It can interfere  with our plot, mess up the structure of our stories, disturb our scenes, upset the character’s dialogues and POV, send the character arc off kilter,  and throw our writing rhythm into a tizzy.

I don’t know about others, but I am constantly writing with the ghost of my conscience peeping over my shoulder, its face contorted with disgust, its shrill voice screaming a flurry of instructions like a  mother warning a child on the cusp of a huge tantrum. Almost all the instructions start with “ don’t do that, why have you written this, mellow that down, how can a school girl think like this, how can you think that about a teacher, that’s not appropriate behaviour for a ten year old Indian school girl/boy, that boy is not a role model,  this is just not right.”

Unfortunately for me, the two middle grade books I am currently working on  are based  in a school. So whatever happens, well.. it happens inside a classroom, between students, between teachers and students, teachers and the Principal and between the Principal and the parents. 

In this scenario my stuck up inner editor needs to go on a long  holiday, preferably paid one way, leaving me in peace to write the first draft  my way. If I were to listen to my  sensible  inner editor, I would never be able to do justice to the theme of my books. School children are going to be naughty, they are going to play pranks, bully other students, trouble and irritate the teachers, cheat in tests. I can’t afford to have angels as students. Most students are not angels, and angels may not make interesting students.

After several showdowns, angry words and sullen silences, I sent my inner editor on a long holiday. I needed to write the first draft my way. Packing its bags, so that it did not return with any flimsy excuse,  I waved a cheerful and excited goodbye to my  over concerned inner editor and celebrated  the joyous event by going berserk with the plot, theme and  the situations. I enjoyed this trial separation, it gave me the much needed breathing space to write the  books my way.

I feel  that I am able to really do justice to the theme, remain true to the souls of the stories (which is pranks and mischief) by not over thinking about the consequences of  my character’s actions. Children will be mischievous, and should be  mischievous. That’s the joy of childhood. And it’s just a book I am writing, not a code of conduct for children. 

I am sure when my  inner editor returns, it will  probably die of shock. But  it’s a risk I  am willing to take.

Have you battled with your own inner editors while working on your books? How do you deal with a moralistic inner editor who is driving you up the wall with it’s  strong sense of ethics. Please tell us, I am sure we all can benefit from your experiences with your personal inner editors. 


  1. LOL Your inner editor and mine must be related. I had to toss him this last time around when I added words to my already WIP. I wanted to write it the way it needed to come out. Now he's back as I go over it --but that's his place:)

  2. The inner editor is an absolute monster during my first draft. I try to send her into a locked closet but she always gets out!
    A few people have had had problems posting comment on blogger, but I haven't. Sorry my blog gave you trouble today!

  3. Interesting, Rachna. In my case, there's no inner editor, I'm the editor!!!
    For nearly 7 hours a day, six days a week, I pause and ponder over the choices I have to make while selecting and diplaying the content for the publication I work for. So when I write, I have to transform myself. Not easy, to dislodge something that's so well entrenched within me.

    But the editor, inner or outer or whatever, has his/her place. That second and third thought (what editor does) gives the creation a polish. Sometimes that edior actually encourages you to write something, you as a person is hesitating to. So editor's job is not just about censoring and cutting out. The editor plays a valuable role of tempering and polishing your thought process, giving the final product a neat finish.

    My suggestion: send the Inner Editor on holiday, but let him come and have a look at your creation and make suggestions. After that send him away again. And you, without any fetters, make the final choice.

  4. Do we have the same inner editor? I can't deny mine for long. In fact, I'm going to start editing the novel I'm working on way before I finish it. It's just one of those things that is eating away at me. I know it can be better and I want it to be now. ;)

  5. Hi beautiful! What a cute post--I love how your voice shines through! ;)

    I so totally empathize with you on this! Right now I'm on pure editing mode--my editor is employed over full time as I comb over my WIP.

    When I wrote my previous book, I did it during NaNoWriMo. I had to leave my editor behind. Really. I learned how to just let it flow because of the pressure of getting in 50K in one month. Ugh...but it worked!

    Try timing yourself and set a goal of writing so many K's that day and see if you can beat yourself at your own goal. OR! Get together with a writer friend and set up a challenge between the both of you. I'd so do this with you, but I have about 35 chapters of editing + to go over :(

    Oh! Btw, tag, you're it! ;)

  6. Okay, I am having the same blogger problem as you are now! Ha ha.

  7. Rachna: I really like how you personified your inner editor as a separate being. What a great technique! The inner editor hovering over our shoulders should be sent packing for the first draft!

    I've finally trained myself to 'spew' out anything when I have no idea where I'm going, something my inner editor absolutely hates. But when I blather on long enough, I always find some germ of a good idea emerge and I know it was because I neutralized that pesky 'inner editor' even if temporarily.

  8. Terri, our inner editors are definitely closely related. I too toss him (or is it her) out when I am writing the first draft.

    Lydia,I always wonder what other writers do with their inner editors. Though you lock your editor in a closet, I prefer sending it on a long holiday.

    Pradeep, my editor is absolutely censoring. Honestly, its job is to make my life miserable. I like your suggestion " Send the Inner Editor on holiday, but let him come and have a look at your creation and make suggestions. After that send him away again. And you, without any fetters, make the final choice." Will try and follow it.

    Anne...your, Terri's and my editor is definitely related. An honest confession, I can't deny mine for long either.

  9. Elizabeth...I can empathize with you.As you are in a purely editing mode, I am sure your editor must be driving you up the wall. I love the idea of NaNoWriMo, its a time when we can really leave our personal editors far behind.

    Thanks for the tag, I will hop over to ur blog, to see what it is all about.

    Lydia..I am still having problems with blogger.

    Rahma,the germ of a good idea does come when we blather on long enough. I have noticed it in my writing too.

  10. I really liked this post! My inner editor and I had to come to an agreement long ago:
    Me: "I'll call you when I need you."
    InEd: "I'll be here if you need me."

    So far, we have a good truce. Although I think I need to call that editor more about my spelling!

  11. Good post. I am fine with all I write (at the moment), nothing troubles my moralistic inner editor. Although it depends how dark I go - I've always wondered how crime fic writers balance their morals.

  12. I absolutely understand where you are coming from. The urge to make my main characters perfect decision-makers and role-models for every child is maddening. The result is that I end up with more interesting secondary characters because they're more real with flaws.

    I think I just have to keep reminding myself that a book is, in many ways, about a character arc. If your main character is perfect from the beginning, what can they learn? How can they improve? And how would a reader ever relate?

    It's definitely a struggle for me though. Great post!!

  13. Elizabeth, I can just visualise you and your inner editor having that conversation. Its nice that you both have come to a truce. moralistic inner editor is pretty troublesome, it often makes me do extensive rewrites. I too wonder how crime fiction writers tackle their morals, its something I may not be able to do, though crime fic is my favourite.

    Kate, I have an inner conflict and an external conflict. The inner conflict is with my conscience and the external conflict is what my protagonist has to battle.
    At times I have to struggle to suppress my extra cautious inner editor.

  14. Oh how we suffer with our inner editors! I can totally relate to this post. Glad you sent yours packing on a nice, long trip.