Friday, February 20, 2015

Four Ways to Trick Your Inner Editor - Getting your story out

To be a good writer, you need to have taste, a sense of how to tell a story elegantly, sensitivity to language, and intolerance of bad grammar and misspellings. To write a first draft, you need to put all of these aside and fill pages with words and ideas that vary from okay to atrocious. The paradox of productive writing is that the path to perfection (or even good enough) runs through recklessness.

How do you turn off the internal editor? There are a lot of ways. (I do not recommend alcohol.) Here are four approaches to try. One might work for you.

Let someone else write it - Not literally. But, if you can write your scene as a pastiche of a favorite author, your inner editor may focus on whether you are creating a good imitation more than on whether you are putting down wonderful prose. When I don't know how to write a scene, I often will take several stabs at it with pages that (to me) read like Edgar Allan Poe, Harlan Ellison, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Stephen King. It's play. It doesn't count. But it reveals ideas, plot points, and scenes I can use. And isn't that the point of a first draft?

Make a mess on purpose - Your inner editor will probably run for cover if you deliberately write purple prose, mixed metaphors, and stilted dialogue. Go for it. Just make sure you 1) have fun and 2) create scenes that move the story forward.

Defy authority - Unleash you Mr. Hyde by doing the exact opposite of whatever the inner editor is demanding. Go at it with an underground man attitude. Have complete disdain for the rules. The only correct answer to the question, "What are you rebelling against?" is "What have you got?"

Transcribe your characters - Write dialogue between the two characters in the scene. Forget narrative, tags, analysis, action, and description. You are listening from the next room and taking down every word.

None of what you write using these approaches will resemble final copy. That's not the point. In the first draft, your job is to get to know the characters and present a version of their story. It is not to create a wonderful reading experience. That's what revision is for.

Upcoming classes

February 25-March 11 How to Write FAST (face-to-face) Westchester Community College
March 2- March 27 Novel in a Month (online)
March 3-April 7 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop (face-to-face)
March 9-April 3 Career Planning for Writers (online)
April 15-April 29 Story Bootcamp (face-to-face) Westchester Community College
April 20-May 25 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop (face-to-face) 
May 1-May 29 Bigger Stories (online)

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