The internal editor will not be silenced

I am thinking that that is actually a good thing. For me.

When an aspiring writing makes friends with other writers, there is going to be a comparison of writing styles. It is inevitable. It will happen sooner or later, so don’t be surprised when it does. I mean, why have you joined a writing group? Invariably the reason given is to learn from other writers.

And not just writing style, but also writing practices. By that I mean what happens between discovering an idea to begin a story and deciding that it’s finished. Mostly. Well, for this week at least.

Embracing the art of writing in the digital age means I have full access to being able to repair my writing as it’s written. When I was a child, writing meant either pen and paper or a typewriter. Both of those tend to have a permanence. The written or typed words are not easily changed or re-arranged so a lot of thought must occur before quite literally committing the words to the page. If it goes all wrong, that’s when you ball up the piece of paper and start again.

Of course, “correction tools” were available. Correction fluid. Erasable pens. Or use a pencil (I still prefer pencils over pens). Typewriters with correction ribbons were available, but expensive. But I still wonder how much editing happened in the writers’ mind before they wrote or typed the words.

I’ve been using computers for a long time. I was a programmer before I left high school. I have also been involved in numerous computer groups. Although there was a social aspect, there was also a lot of sharing of programming techniques. And computer programming is a lot like writing. So no surprise there are a lot of shared skills. Programming is usually an iterative process. You try something and see what works. Then you fix and add and try again. The details aren’t important. But you need the computer to help because how it behaves (or misbehaves) according to your program is the whole point of the exercise.

Writing fiction prose is awfully similar. The biggest difference is that you don’t need the computer to help build it: you need a reader. And when you’re writing, that’s you.

I am very much an iterative programmer where I constantly fix and extend when has gone before. And throwing stuff away. I learnt a long time ago to be able to do that in my programs. So it is no surprise that I write fiction similarly. I constantly edit and re-write what has gone before, even as later parts are barely planned. Throwing writing away, though, is a skill I haven’t yet embraced…

Much writing advice tells the writer to “just write” and to edit it later. I find this can be good advice for a writer who needs to learn how to spew words out somehow. Never mind if it’s good or bad. That’s not the point. It’s an exercise in creating. Unfortunately, the other extreme that gets advocated is to plan everything out before turning it all into fiction. I find you need to be a certain type of person to make that work. That’s why I am advocating a middle ground. It is also why I rarely end up with a “first draft”. I get to the end of a work for the first time and it’s pretty much already reached “final draft” status.

Leaving your internal editor off its leash is a personal choice. Mine actually helps with the story-telling, so he’s most welcome. Not all writers will be so lucky. But until you know, don’t discount the possibility.


Filed under editing, writing

5 responses to “The internal editor will not be silenced

  1. Pingback: liberating the self. « Sick with Poetry.

  2. Pingback: written for a reason. « Sick with Poetry.

  3. Pingback: Found an Editor; Now to Write a Book… « Copywrite1985

  4. Pingback: A Different Kind of Writing Style | Two Voices, One Song

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