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Tip Tuesday #95

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where blog readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

I hope you all had a fantastic, safe 4th of July! Today's tip on the infernal internal editor comes from Cate Morgan who blogs at Infinite Monkey. Cate's apocalyptic fantasy novella Brighid's Cross will be published by Samhain Ltd. in November 2011. Such great news! Please give her a visit and consider subscribing to her blog. Enjoy!

Tip Tuesday - In Which We Beat Writer's Block.

Or, Adventures In Distracting The Infernal Editor

I don’t know about you, but my writer’s block has a name. I call it the Infernal Editor, mainly because if I’m stuck at a road block and can’t see where I need to go it’s because he’s snatched the next bit of story and run off with it, laughing a diabolical laugh. Or because he’s blocked my view like a big ol' hiney in front of a TV. Every writer has that internal voice screaming “No, go that way!” or switching the road signs in the direction of an unexpected cliff. Even as I type this, he’s bouncing up and down, going “What did you write THAT for? That’s not helpful or witty or in any way good. Hey, is that a Starbucks?”

See how he tried to lure me off track like that? The Infernal Editor is indeed a worthy foe—crafty, malicious, and determined to make us doubt ourselves and our talent. It knows your weaknesses, and exploits them mercilessly. Sometimes he even appears in the guise of logic or Writer’s Little Helper. A tricksy trickster, that one.

Fortunately, there’s more than one way to skin a Cheshire Cat.

Chain Of Events

This is where I grab a notebook and pen and run off somewhere the Infernal Editor can’t find me. Then, beginning at my last key scene or plot point, I summarize the action in short lines of action, image, or dialogue up to the point where I got stuck. It's important to do this by memory, and to leave lots of white space for notes later. If I’ve gone wrong anywhere or missed something this is where I usually find it. Don’t sweat mechanics or grammar or anything remotely technical—this is about discovery, and the point is to get rid of the little bastard, not encourage him. He’s usually so stricken by the lack of paragraphs, sentence structure and punctuation he can’t form words.

Spinning Down The Page

By the time I reach the road block a solution usually crops up, and I can continue alternating action-image-dialogue, line by line, in any order that comes natural. Writing hot, breathing deep, leaving the Infernal Editor shaking his fists impotently in my rearview mirror, all the way until the next key scene or plot point, destination in clear view. Again, this isn't about planning, but discovery.

Getting It Down

Time to put it all into the computer. Using my notebook, I can now put it all into actual words. By now my brain is so into the groove things I never initially considered pop up like jack-in-the-boxes, waving their little hands, going “Pick me, pick ME!” This is where I come up with some of my best writing, because my brain is warmed up and purring nicely. And I go with it, because the Infernal Editor is still panting to catch up. And then it’s my turn to chortle an evil little laugh. Bwa-ha-ha-haaaa.

An evil laugh can be good for the writer’s soul, as long as it’s your own.

~Cate Morgan


Matthew MacNish said...

These are some great ideas. I don't have this problem, because I'm so long winded I usually leave what little internal editor I have in the dust.

I wish I didn't write so much, it's hard to know what to cut later, when a draft ends up at several hundred thousand words.

The East Coaster said...

The truth? Oh, you just blogged it!

My Internal Editor is a wicked thing. Horrid.

The beastie lives in my computer and the only way I can get away from him is to write difficult scenes longhand. It burns us...

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips. Thanks for sharing them. I'm like Matt though. I tend to write too much and have to cut.

Kristen Simmons said...

I do both - I get stuck, but by the time I get through it I realize I've gone way to far and need to start chopping words! (ACK!)

This was great, as always. Thanks!

Cate Morgan said...

Thanks for the comments, guys! I've found if I spin down the page in prepartion for each scene or scene sequence (the idea is to rip *down* the page instead of *across*)the writing not only goes much faster, but tighter as well. The result tends to be less revision in the long run.

Thanks again!

Steve MC said...

Laughter in the face of one's fears is definitely good.

Bono once said, "Mock the devil and he will flee from thee," and that's just how the Internal Editor can seem.

Laila Knight said...

Infernal Editor. I like that. Mine's called Monroe. Using pen and paper can helf lure in focus and diminish writer's block. I find that physical activity works really well too, specially submerging in water.

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

My critic's called Ethel and she's screamer. Thanks for the advice. I'll try it.

Kelley said...

I like the way you said the good advice you gave :)

Ishta Mercurio said...

Great advice! And well-written, too. Delightful post.

Victoria Dixon said...

What a great, fun post. Thanks, Cate. I particularly like the tip on writing down the actions by memory without punctuation, etc.

Christina Farley said...

Great advice. I like how you 'warm' up your brain to get it going. That internal Editor is always such a pain.

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

Great strategies for combating the infernal editor!

Elana Johnson said...

Oooh, I like this. I like how you get your brain warmed up and purring nicely. Good stuff here!