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Three ways to turn off your internal editor

I have a secret to tell you. I like to take notes. On physical paper. With a real pen.

As the token “tech guy”, this causes me a bit of ridicule. I bust out my Captain America journal from Walmart and jot down whatever important thing someone said. OK, most of the time it’s some nonsensical thing that someone said… But, hey, it’s all good.

Every week or so I’ll peruse my notebook and try to decipher the difference between my grocery list and a 3 Act structure for a random story. Sometimes I find real gems that I completely forgot about. Recently I rediscovered notes from (I think) a recent chat with my Mastermind group about how to turn off your internal self editor. This is something I struggle with, but also have had some real victory in. Here are three ways to turn off your internal editor:

Number One: Tell yourself it’s OK to suck.

One of my biggest battles while I write is to try to spit out perfection. Truth is: It’s not gonna happen. It may happen sometimes. You can get in that groove and write beautiful prose that will make your readers cry. Other times: “I don’t like sand…..”

Before your fingers hit the keyboard, make a mental agreement with yourself. It’s ok to write bad. They call it a “rough draft” for a reason. It’s going to be rough. But to spit out that first draft, you have to put it all out there. I’m certain you’ll pare it down later.

 

There are some days where I still really struggle turning off the editor. I cringe at my prose and wonder if everything I’ve ever written before was just a fluke. Be honest, you’ve been there, too. Here’s the thing, even A-list, NYT authors write bad first drafts. Be easy on yourself.

Number Two: Have a Plan.

I follow several accounts on Instagram and Twitter that post cool fantasy and science fiction images. Sometimes I see an image that is just begging to be fleshed out into a story. I screenshot the image, or save it to Pinterest and start diving into the world/character/scenario. I never have all the details when I start clacking out words, but to get a decent word count, I have to have at least a general heading.

A journey has to have a destination. That pesky internal editor hates when you have a goal set. Maybe you sit down to knock out a scene involving a car chase. Maybe your protagonist is about get tossed off a cliff. Know what you want to accomplish in each writing session. Decide to complete a scene, or hit a certain word count. Be fair, and don’t kill yourself. You can’t write a full novel in a single sitting. Make a plan. Stick to the plan. Always Deliver. (Bonus points if you get the reference. Yes, I have kids…)

 

 

 

 

Number Three: Word Sprints.

Oh, Facebook. Hey there, Twitter. Why, Instagram, you look lovely this evening. Many, many writers struggle with the tug to check social media just one more time. That’s where number three come in: Set a timer and GO!

I remember the first time I did word sprints with some friends. My palms were sweaty. I wanted to knock out more words than my friends. I had to win. Competition can be a great motivator.

Word sprints can done with friends through Facebook chat, or ya know…  in a library/coffee shop/the real world. Or you can fly solo. Pick a time limit. Fifteen minutes with a five minute break works well. You can get three good sprints in an hour and knock out some seriously good word counts when you focus. I’ve found that setting a time limit and pushing to hit a max word count is a great way to shut down my internal editor.

Number Four: The freebie

I know…. I said three things. Just go with it.

The one thing that helped me hit those 10k words in a day was to not Google while writing. If I came to something I needed to look up, or a word I couldn’t quite remember, I would type something like (insert science-y thing here) or (make this dialogue more better.) I found that the more I kept my fingers on the keyboard, the more I was able to keep my focus. I was able to go back in post and clean up those parts I skipped over.

 

I hope these tips help you to maximize your writing time. If you’re anything like me, your time is precious. Next time you sit down to write, I hope you remember my three (four) tips on how to turn off your internal editor. Let me know in the comments, or catch me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know if one of these tips helps you crank out that word count!

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2 comments on “Three ways to turn off your internal editor

  1. Number four is my favorite. Except for the time I forgot to go back and (insert lawyer’s actual name from previous chapter.) I sent the manuscript to my publisher that way 🙂

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