Monday, July 25, 2011

Banishing Aunt Edna: How to Stop Self Editing

Normally I stay on track pretty well when I'm writing. I know well enough not to go back over what I've written except to familiarize myself with a scene when I begin each morning. Yes, I KNOW better. I know I should just keep typing. Let the words come out uninhibited because once you start looking at them too carefully they'll get scared and start hiding in dark places where they can't be seen.

But lately I've forgotten that a story can be a bit like a shy child and if you start questioning it, start scrutinizing it too closely it'll go hide under the couch or crawl underneath the back patio. And there's no coaxing a story out once it's hidden under the patio.

The problem is that darn self editor. She's like the big scary great aunt with the hairy mole and the bad breath. We'll call her Aunt Edna. Once she starts pinching your poor little story's cheeks she'll scare the bejeezus out of her. And there's no way your story is going to come out again with Aunt Edna standing there staring at her.

This is why I've decided to ban Aunt Edna from my writing. She's kind of difficult to get to leave once she's made herself comfortable in your life, but I have my tricks. For instance, I happen to know that Aunt Edna really likes to look over my shoulder when I'm working on my computer. It's so easy for her to push the backspace key. She loves making me scroll back up and read over my work over and over and again, until it's lost all the magic and all the momentum. She LOVES to start tweeking words. tweek. tweek. tweek.

But for some reason Aunt Edna HATES it when I write long hand. She gets a little perturbed and skulks away pouting about how hard it is to butt in. She knows that I'm much less likely to go back to change things when I'm writing things out on paper. I'll just keep charging ahead, pencil down, until the words are all out of me.

So this week I'm going to try giving Aunt Edna a little break; see if I can't get her to pack her bags and move back home. Then maybe I'll get back on the computer and find that she's not staring over my shoulder any more.


  1. I'm hoping Aunt Edna stays banned for you! I know that over-the-shoulder revision thing - well. Someone told me, "Spit out the story." I say those words in my head every time I sit down at the computer to write or am tempted to change something as I go. I do keep a notebook of things I want to change, however, but don't let myself change them until I reach THE END.

  2. I read once that you can distract the internal editor by writing in longhand. It makes her concentrate on making your handwriting nice and neat instead. Don't know if it works or not, but you might want to try it.

  3. I love your suggestion to write longhand! The temptation to edit is too great for me when I type. I'm going to try using a notebook and pen. Thanks!

    And good luck getting rid of Aunt Edna!

  4. Best of luck! Keeping the self editor at bay can be tough sometimes!