It creeps behind your fingers, critiquing every word you write. It whispers behind your thoughts, takes control of your eyes. There! it shouts, jumping up and down. A typo! A misspelled word! Correct it! Correct it now!
You forgot a comma!
A run-on sentence!
No, that character wouldn’t actually say that!
That’s stupid, that doesn’t make sense!
It’s the little voice that is trying to carve details into a chunk of clay before the vase is finished. Those details are just going to be swept away to complete the vase itself, so why focus on them now? Better to start with the vase, then add the details and textures once it’s done. Editing before your scene is complete is like trying to embroider a quilt that hasn’t been sewn yet, or icing a cake that hasn’t been baked.
Editing is very important, but wonderful grammar and spelling don’t mean anything if your story isn’t good. They mean even less if your story doesn’t even get finished because you are too busy correcting it to finish it.
For my SpoNoWriMo novel, I’ve been kicking out about 2,300 words per day. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and would be impossible if I insisted on editing it as I wrote. It’s important to keep the ideas and scenes flowing without breaking to correct countless typos, word choices, sentence structures, or even pausing to consider changing them.
So how can you do it? How can you silence the inner editor so you can focus on the base form? Here’s what I do, that so far has been helping me.
Use Notepad – Or any other program that doesn’t have spell/grammar check.
Recently I have been typing my drafts into Notepad, a text-only Windows program. I have found that without the squiggly lines beneath every spelling and grammar error, I can focus on what I am typing now and not be alerted to all my mistakes. You can also turn off the editing functions in Microsoft Word, but I like to copy what I’ve written in Notepad, paste it into Word, and address all those squiggly lines as I read through what I wrote the day before.
Write in the Moment – and don’t look back.
This involves typing the story as it unfolds without reading very deeply into the words that I’ve just written. This keeps my focus on what is happening, instead of on the errors that I’m making. I practiced this by typing for fifteen minute sessions with two rules: Don’t stop, and don’t backspace. It was agonizing, let me tell you! While it hasn’t completely cured me of my desire to hit the backspace and correct every mistake, it has certainly lessened the urge. Besides, it’s not like I can’t catch it later.
Remember: It’s Just a Draft – And no one has to read it yet.
No one ever has to see what you’re writing now. It helps me to know that no one has to see how horrible my first draft is, or look down their noses at my mistakes and give me the disapproving eyes. I can make all the errors and typos and writing faux pas that I want because this is my writing and I can write it how I want to.
Later, if I decide I want someone to see it, I can fix it up. If it turns out to be too horrible to fix, no one will be the wiser. I will be, though–wiser, that is–having learned from the experience and how it did or didn’t go right. If nothing else, I gained a habit of sitting down to write something, of getting words on the page.
Typos are fixable. Words can be replaced, sentences can be reordered. But if you never get them down for having to fix every one–there will be nothing to fix, nothing to replace or reorder. What’s important is the message.
Are you plagued by an inner editor? Have you found any ways to work past it?