Ready, Set, Write: Turning Off Your Internal Editor

Ready, set, write. It sounds incredibly easy to do. You sit down at your keyboard or a notebook, and get to work. But most writers hear the nagging voice of their internal editor from the first sentence. That voice says you’ve started at the wrong spot. Or it insists your opening sentence is boring. Maybe you should start with a different scene. Are you sure that’s the correct point of view? Your internal editor pokes and whines and insinuates as you write, growing louder with every paragraph. It makes you doubt yourself, and slows your progress.

ready-set-write-woman-writing

Silencing Your Internal Editor

Writers everywhere have their own methods for silencing the nagging voice in their heads. The one that tells them they’re doing it all wrong. Here are a few things to keep in mind when working on your first draft. Post your favorites over your desk or tape them to the edge of your monitor. Maybe create a mantra or two.

  • It’s just a shitty first draft. No one writes a beautiful or perfect first draft. It’s supposed to be a brain dump. Plenty of time to make it pretty when you start to revise.
  • I’m figuring out who the characters are. First drafts help you flesh out your protagonist and the rest of your cast. Get to know them, determine what they want, and how they’re likely to behave while getting it.
  • Only reread the previous day’s output. When you sit down to write, don’t allow yourself to read anything older than what you wrote in your previous session. Out of sight, out of mind. And again, you have plenty of time to revise once you’re done with draft #1.
  • I don’t have to know everything yet. First drafts are for fleshing out the plot just as much as the characters. If you don’t know what happens next, skip ahead to where you do have an idea. Put brackets and come back later to fill in the details.
  • Everything is relative. Remember that the things you write start to build on each other. You may reach a juncture at page 50 or 150 or 250 that gives you wonderful ideas for shoring up earlier scenes. Sometimes you need to build the castle before the foundation.
  • You cannot edit a blank page. There’s no point in trying to perfect what you haven’t written. Write first, edit later. By this I mean the entire book. Editing a single sentence in a void is almost as bad as trying to write one perfect sentence from the start.

If your internal editor becomes particularly persistent, try some other ways of distracting yourself. Put on instrumental music to fill your head with some other sound. Scroll down the page so your screen is blank (or turn to the next page in your notebook), then take a short break to walk around; when you come back, start writing without looking at what you’d been picking over before you left. Change the font color of the last section to white so it’s invisible, then keep writing. Go for a run or hit the gym to get your blood flowing — you’ll feel more creatively inspired.

Every writer must face their internal editor, but only you can determine how much power you’ll give to your nagging voice. Whether you’re piling up words for NaNoWriMo or fighting to meet a contract deadline, there will be days when reaching your writing goal feels impossible. Remember that the internal editor is you — you at your most critical and insecure. Remind yourself that you are not alone in your efforts, and the only way to reach the end is to keep pushing through. Good luck, and happy writing.

Prepare for NaNoWriMo: Get Ready to Write

With just two weeks left in October, it’s time to prepare for NaNoWriMo, otherwise knows as National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands and thousands of writers around the world attempt to write a novel in 30 days. No prize awaits them. There’s no guarantee of publication. But writers still churn out hundreds of words each day, hoping to hit the goal of 50,000 by November 30th.

Why do people challenge themselves to write so much in a short period? Some do it for fun. NaNoWriMo has become something of a party over the years. Writers gather with other local participants to write in coffee shops or bookstores. Online forums provide a way to reach out and chat about your work-in-progress. Others use the energy of the event to force themselves to finish a first draft. Professional writers often join in, working on current projects or starting new ones. Writers with thoughts of publication know that 50,000 runs a bit short for a traditional novel, but NaNoWriMo still offers great motivation to get to work.

prepare for NaNoWriMo

Are you a plotter or pantser?

Plenty of writers just open up a new Word doc on November 1st and start typing at random. It can be entertaining to see where your imagination takes you. But if you prefer to plot, or you want to make sure the words flow daily, it’s a good idea to prep for NaNoWriMo. If you have at least some idea of where you’d like your story to go, it will help you build your word count and avoid facing a nasty bout of writer’s block.

How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

Technically, you’re not supposed to start writing until November 1st, but you can still put together some notes.

  • Determine your major characters. Figure out who your protagonist is and what they want. Name some people. Give them jobs and relationships.
  • Do you at least have an idea for your book? If you do, dream up a few scenes you’re really looking forward to writing and sketch out a few short notes about them. (Not the scenes themselves, of course. That would be cheating.)
  • Get some research done. If you have to do some leg work or reading about your setting, the time period, characters’ careers, etc., now is the time to do it. Plus all that wonderful detail and vocabulary you dig up will help you increase your word count.

There’s nothing wrong with deciding to use NaNoWriMo as a time to play. But if you plan to use it to work, just a little bit of prep will help you make the most of your experience. And don’t forget: the manuscript you finish on November 30th will be a first draft. So don’t waste time editing while you write. Plenty of time for that later.

Good luck to everyone participating this year!

Friday Links: Revisit Writing Basics

What does it mean to revisit writing basics? Simply put, this week I’d like you to peel away some of the technology and bells and whistles and look at the bare bones of your writing habit. If you have writer’s block, this approach may help unmoor your ideas. Otherwise, going back to basics for a day or two can renew your creativity in general. A short hand way to think of this approach is “butt in chair, brain in gear.” You might also want to focus on the building blocks of your craft. Read some of your writing aloud, listening for rhythms and word repetition. Maybe forget your fancy computer program and work for a bit in longhand. Write daily and read good books.

I’ve collected the ususal assortment of links this week, with a fair amount of writing advice included. Keep in mind that the best writing style is the one you develop for yourself. So take a look at these varied ideas about writing and apply the ones that work for you. Not every writing trick inspires every writer. I hope at least a few of these will send you to your desk this weekend. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links

Why Digital Note-Taking Will Never Replace the Physical Journal. – Thoughts on why physical journals survive in this digital age.

An Oubliette of Unconventional Writing Advice. – Chuck Wendig offers some entertaining advice on writing advice as a whole, and some common-sense ways to get your work done.

How I Do It: Anne Rice on Writing Technique. – Some very specific ideas on how to approach the art of writing.

London’s Amazing Underground Infrastructure Revealed in Vintage Cutaway Maps. – Fabulous images to inspire either historical or fantasy fiction set in London – or something completely original.

NaNo Prep: Make a Box for Your Bully. – Some excellent advice on silencing that inner editor so you can just write. (Plenty of time to edit when the draft is done.)

Start It Already: How to Start Your Novel – Great tips on how to actually start writing that book, for those of you staring at a blank page/screen.

2017 Writing Goals: 3rd Quarter Check-In

Play Your Writing Goals

Time to review your writing goals for 2017! We’ve entered the final quarter of the year, so grab that list of goals and see where you stand. Or maybe you’re just getting around to making some writing goals. Whatever stage you’re at with your writing, consider where you’d like to go next, and how to get there.

Writing Goals Review

If you set goals for your writing at any point this year, look back and see what you’ve achieved versus where you need to recommit. Maybe you managed to complete some smaller goals, but you’re behind with a big one. Perhaps you focused on a major goal, while some small ones fell by the wayside. Or perhaps circumstances have changed and you need to rework one or more goals to match.

Be honest when you assess your progress, but don’t beat yourself up. Use your goals as a tool, a rudder by which to steer your career as best you can. Sometimes we lose track of what we’re trying to achieve, but sometimes life just gets in the way. Only you know where you should be working harder, and where you have to cut yourself some slack.

Reassess Your Writing Goals

Once you know where you stand, you can determine where you want to go. Maybe you’re on track, and all you need to do is keep working as you have been. Congratulations! But maybe you want to cross a goal off your list as no longer valid, or you need to change the timeline on something you’ve been writing. Don’t hesitate to tweak your goals as necessary. These goals are for you; you get to say what they should be, what’s working and what isn’t.

Writing Goals Going Forward

If you didn’t set goals earlier in the year, do so now. Even with three months left to 2017, you can accomplish plenty to help you move forward with your writing. Commit to writing daily, or consider submitting short work to a contest or for publication. Start researching literary agents, or get your author’s website up and running.

Even if you did set goals for the year, you can certainly add new ones at this stage. Maybe you’ve come up with a new idea for a project that requires some research, or you’re ahead with something and ready for the next step. Goal lists should remain flexible, and not adhere strictly to the calendar year.

Checking in with your writing goals enables you to keep on top of your career and your accomplishments. People typically forget about their new year’s resolutions by March. If you check in on your writing ambitions frequently over the course of the year, you’ll keep them fresh in your mind. So make your list of goals, set some calendar reminders, and go write.

Friday Links: Writers on Process and Intention

Happy Friday, all! I’m having another one of those long, busy weeks leading into an equally busy weekend, so I’m just going to wish you all some great reading and writing time over the next couple of days and leave you with some links I hope provide excellent inspiration. Among them are a few profiles of talented writers, sharing process and experiences. Every writer has their own approach, interests, background, etc. It’s part of what makes this such a fascinating career; no one can really give you a road map to success. You need to find your own path, based on your own interests and goals.

So without further ado, here are this week’s links. Enjoy and happy writing!

Who’s Afraid of Claire Messud? – A fascinating interview with the writer, delving into her background and the types of characters that interest her.

Why We Read and Why We Write – Thoughts on what we gain from the reading and writing processes.

Marlon James Needs Noise to Write (and Other Revelations) – A nice long conversation with the author (close to 50 minutes long, so plan accordingly) about writing as work and the importance of curiosity.

The Book Lover’s Guide to Publishing Part 3: Printing & Production Process – The next installment in the series being posted at the Penguin Books blog.

PBS to Unveil America’s Favorite Books in New TV Series – Public broadcasting will be bringing out a new eight-part documentary on reading in America.

Let’s Get Graphic: 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels – A fabulous list of some of the best works available in comics form, from graphic novels to online comics, as chosen by NPR fans.

Working for the Queen of Spies: Kate Quinn and Stephanie Dray Discuss “The Alice Network” – Kate Quinn talks about the writing of her new work of historical fiction and the real-life espionage group that served as her foundation.

Friday Links: Finding the Best Way to Frame Your Story

Happy Friday, all! I hope you’ve had a wonderful week with some productive writing time and maybe a good book on your nightstand. Heading into the weekend, I’ve some lovely links for you all, and in particular I’d like you to consider how you frame your stories. I don’t just mean the ones you’re writing, but the ones you tell about yourself, your life, your experiences, your daily frustrations.

While not everyone is a writer, we’re all storytellers, so that’s something to think about when you look at the things that might be getting you down. The story is yours to tell, yours to sell, and that includes what you’re telling yourself. A series of rejection letters can be terribly disheartening, but you can also consider them a countdown to an eventual sale.

Without further ado, here are this week’s Friday Links. Enjoy, and happy writing!

How Writing Let Me Take Control of My Own Story – One writer’s disconnect between her writing and her life.

This Is Going to Be about Heroes – Author Maggie Stiefvater on heroism and finding the right way to tell a story.

When Reading Isn’t Enough: Book-Adjacent Hobbies – For book fanatics who love all the bookish things.

The Book-Lovers Guide to Publishing, Part 1: Publishing Ephemera – The first in a series of publishing-related blog posts from Penguin Books.

So You’ve Decided to Write: The Best Way to Deal with Rejection – Some tips on how to move past ‘No’.

My Own Kind of Beautiful: How Geography Affects the Writing Process – One writer’s take on how travel affects his work and what it means to be ready to write about a place.

$5,000 Grants for Writers and Artists with Children: Applications Open until 31 August – 20 grants are available this year for writers and artists with children, to be used for child care, new equipment, or any other number of things.

Friday Links: Writing from Different Perspectives

Happy Friday! There’s another hot, sunny weekend on the horizon, and I fully intend to spend the majority of it indoors with my nose in a book. Why? Because this weekend is the 24 in 48 Readathon, one of my favorite events of the year, and it is my excuse to get a lot of reading done and not feel guilty about putting off the laundry or ignoring my other weekend chores. The readathon kicks off midnight ET on Saturday morning and runs through the end of Sunday, and there’s still time to sign up in you want to join in the fun.

Before I get to reading, however, I need to get some more work done, so I will be leaving you here with this week’s Friday Links so I can go be productive. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, filled with reading and writing and all good things. Enjoy!

Known Alias: How Stephen King Was Outed as Richard Bachman – An interesting look at how the famous author’s pseudonym became public.

Are We So Unwilling to Take Sylvia Plath at Her Word – In light of recent revelations regarding Plath’s relationship with husband Ted Hughes, important questions as to whether the information was really new, and what that says about how women are treated.

Sherman Alexie’s Heartbreaking Reason for Pausing His Book Tour – A bit of a ghost story.

Rebecca Solnit on a Childhood of Reading and Wandering – A love letter to libraries and the areas around them.

Difference Is an Asset: Writing in a Second Language – How a challenge can shift a writer’s perspective.

6 Reasons Aspiring Writers Should Act More Like Musicians – A touch harsh, perhaps, but still offers some basic, down-to-earth advice regarding putting one’s nose to the grindstone and getting the work done.

 

Friday Links: “Literary Borrowing” and Other Writing Inspiration

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’ve all had a lovely week and you have some terrific plans for the weekend ahead. As always, I encourage you to carve out some time to focus on your writing goals, whether that means working on your current writing project, taking a workshop, doing some creative exercises, or reading for inspiration. With any luck, you’ll manage more than one of these. Don’t let the temptations of summer lure you too far off track.

When it comes to inspiration, a new experience, some time in a museum, or just a rambling walk can do wonders to spark ideas, but historically speaking, writers are well known for taking inspiration from the works that came before them. That’s why it’s so important to read, to know the foundations of your genre and others so you’re aware of what’s new ground versus well-trod territory. There aren’t that many stories to be told, but the way you tell them, the twists that only you can put on familiar themes, are what set your works apart from the ones that inspire you.

So this week’s links include lots of book recs, as well as some thoughts on how writers “recycle” the ideas that inspire them. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Writing in the Shadow of a Masterpiece: On Homage – Margot Livesy on “literary borrowing.”

In Praise of Daphne duMaurier – A look at the English author whose works have inspired a devoted, steady following.

50 Crucial Feminist YA Novels – A terrific round up of titles you might want to add to your TBR list.

8 Book Subscription Boxes Featuring Diverse Authors – A selection of subscriptions at different price points that focus on diversity.

Here Are all the Must-Read Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Arriving in July – Some of the most anticipated titles in the genre releasing this month. (A couple have already made it to my TBR list.)

The Sunday Times Short Story Award 2018 – Details for this year’s round of the lucrative prize, open to writers worldwide.

Fairy Tales Still Inspire Modern Female Writers – I’d argue this wasn’t limited to women writers, but they do seem to use this type of source material more frequently than men do. Still, an interesting piece with some good book recs included.

8 Books that Feature Bisexual Women (and Don’t Focus on their Sex Lives) – Some more great reads to consider for that TBR list.

Friday Links: The Writing Goals Review Edition

Six months down, six months to go. We’re officially halfway through 2017. Have you checked in with your writing goals lately? As we head into the weekend, it’s the perfect time to set aside an hour or so and review the goals you made earlier this year. Figure out if you’re on track, if you’ve veered way off the path, if some of your goals need to be revised because your aspirations have shifted or circumstances make it necessary.

It’s important to have a plan, to know where you want to go with your career. Yes, there’s always room for new ideas and for spontaneous shifts when great opportunities come up, but overall, you should know what you’re aiming to achieve, and the steps you need to take to do so. So look back and see what you’ve done well, and where you’ve fallen down on the job.¬†More than anything, be honest with yourself; don’t beat yourself up for failures, but also acknowledge when you might have worked harder, said no to a few more nights out when you should have been writing, or allowed a shiny idea to lure you away from a work in progress.

Then look forward. Where do you want to be at the end of December? Do you have smaller goals you can finish by summer’s end? By late September? Before the holidays hit? Stagger your self-imposed deadlines and make sure you have some more managable tasks that you can check off your goal list on the road to your more major accomplishments.

As for this week’s links, I like to think everything I dig up has the potential to help you along your path to goal fulfillment. You knw the steps you need to take: read, write, revise, and educate yourself about the writing business. So on the cusp of this long Independence Day weekend here in the U.S., I wish you all the inspiration and motivation you need to meet your goals head-on. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The American Experience in 737 Novels – This resource feels appropriate as we commemorate the birth of our nation.

22 of Your Favorite Writers on What to Read This Summer – Recommendations from some amazing authors.

Deal or No Deal: Why Being a Literary Agent Doesn’t Make it Easier to Write a Book – Some advice from the other side of the desk.

20 Magical Tattoos for 20 Years of Harry Potter – Some fun body art in honor of the Boy Who Lived’s anniversary.

25 Books for Teens Written by Black Women Writers to Rock Your 2017 – A great list to help round out your TBR pile.

M.L. Rio’s 5 Best Novels Inspired by Shakespeare – So many great books take their cues from classics. Here Rio shares some of her favorites based on the works of the Bard.

How to Keep Writing (Even if You Have a Day Job): 5 Tips from Novelist Jennifer Close – Some useful advice to keep the words flowing.

Friday Links: Writing Is Rewriting

This has been a week of distractions, with a million shiny (and not-so-shiny) things popping up at every turn to demand my attention. Not only can that make it difficult to finish whatever tasks were originally on your to-do list, but it’s exhausting. So my current plan for the weekend involves getting this post up, sending out a few emails, and then unplugging for the most part until Monday morning. At least from the internet and its constant bombardment from social media and the like. I think I have a date with the beach, a book, and a big floppy hat. And possibly print outs of a few dozen submissions.

Maybe you plan to unplug as well, but if not, here are this week’s Friday Links to keep you entertained and possibly inspire some creative time. Several of these are particularly useful if you’re in or approaching the rewrite/editing stage. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The Five Bes to Being a Better Beta Buddy – Some great tips for giving feedback to your writing critique partners.

When You’re Ready to Move from Summer Reading to Summer Writing – Some short-term writing retreats to check out on your summer vacation, or to inspire you to check out what else might be out there.

Joseph Kanon: There Is No Better Place to Write than the Library – The author shares his love for writing in the New York Public Library, and why he finds it makes the perfect office.

California Soul: A Literary Guide to SoCal Beach Towns – A list of beachy locales with a bit of an edge, straight from the pages of fiction.

The Legend of an Editor – A look inside the work practices of Robert Silver of The New York Review of Books, and the legend he left behind.

Roxane Gay Is the Hardest Working Woman in Letters – An interview with the author on the release of her new memoir, Hunger.

10 Tips for Becoming a Better Editor – Pretty much what it says on the package.