We writers all have something within us called our inner editor. Mine resembles a female Gollum, with thick hipster glasses and a bad attitude.
This is the same supercilious creature that causes us to judge your punctuation and word choice in the texts you send us. And don’t get me started on Facebook posts. This tetchy perfectionist is not only judgmental about you, she really likes taking her abuse out on us- the hosts this parasite feeds off. She’s a cranky bastard. And sometimes, she gets the better of us.
It’s bugging the crap out of her this very moment that I not only used an adverb, but I put it in bold font.
I’ve been reading articles and blogs focused on what makes quality writing, dos and don’ts with dialogue, how to stay out of the rejection pile, and countless other pieces of advice that tell writers exactly what we are doing wrong. As a result, I keep having to talk myself off the edge and remind myself that a first draft of fiction isn’t suppose to be great, it’s meant to put words on that blank page to edit the hell out of later.
That doesn’t mean I accept this premise with ease.
Due to NaNoWriMo’s speed, I feel like I’m doing all the “don’ts.” Let me correct that, I know my NaNo writing is full of don’ts. First drafts, especially those written under time constraints like NaNo, are bound to be full of really crappy writing.
At this point, my inner editor won’t even associate with my characters. She keeps telling them “You’re so boring— I’m not talking to you.” They aren’t developing into who I know they are meant to be. And it turns out, that’s okay.
In a NaNoWriMo Spreecast last weekend, Marissa Meyer, author of The Lunar Chronicles series, stated “I don’t feel like I really know my characters inside and out until the third or fourth draft of a book.” This gives me hope that my characters, one day, won’t be so wretched. You can read her NaNoWriMo success story here. By the way, that’s one indication that you might be a writer, when four drafts isn’t daunting, as long as your character comes through in the end.
The take away is this: The first draft is a road map, editing is where the magic happens. That is when a writer can release the Gollum inside and allow her the freedom to rip sentences and paragraphs to shreds only to entwine the jagged fragments into golden nuggets of descriptive prose.
And my inner editor? I’ve taken to keeping her on her badly-in-need-of-a-pedicure toes, in full rebellion, sending text messages chock full of bad grammar to everyone I know. You’re welcome.