Sunday, May 31, 2009

Letting Go of My Inner Editor

Gigi Pandian

I'm the kind of writer who throws myself into a story. I don't mean getting caught up in my characters' lives, although I'm told I do that, too. I mean diving head first into a project and not coming up for air until the whole draft of a novel is complete.

The first time I was able to finish a novel--typing "the end" in good conscience--was the year I discovered National Novel Writing Month, that crazy experiment where you sign up to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

Sure, I'd had ideas for mystery novels before that. I even got most of the way through a terrible novel during college. (Seriously. All copies have now been burned.) But something was holding me back. Me.

Without a deadline, I was waiting for the perfect words to come to me, or the most brilliant plot point to present itself. The problem with that idea is that perfection isn't going to appear out of nowhere. Without the crucial step of pouring a messy story onto the page, a writer may never get to the stage where she can look back and dig out the nuggets of gold.

Unfortunately, I don't need just any old deadline. It turns out I need a pretty insane deadline to force myself to let go of my inner editor and type freely. A deadline like writing a whole novel in a month. (If you're thinking about trying it, I recommend lots of caffeine.)

The upside? Those frantic writing sessions are when I get my best ideas. A few turn out to be nonsense, but most turn out to be exactly what I was after. And I never would have found those incredibly satisfying pieces of the puzzle had I not let my characters run around getting messy. Editing the mess comes later, but that's fun once the solid foundation is there.

Learning to let go of my inner editor has been the best thing that has happened to me as a writer. Without learning that lesson, I never would have gotten to "the end."


Dana Fredsti said...

Sigh. I envy you your ability to let your characters get messy. Even with insane deadlines, I still worry about having everything just so in that first draft.

Sandra Parshall said...

Congratulations on the launch of your blog, Gigi! You're in excellent company here, and I look forward to visiting often.

Anne Spencer said...

Hey, I found your blog (through your website)...looking forward to reading that novel...thanks for sharing insight to the writing process.