Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What is an Inner Editor?

I don't know that I've talked about it on here yet, but many authors frequently refer to their "inner editor". What strange beast is this and why do writers seem to alternately love and hate it?

Have you ever tried to type an email, only to keep re-writing it half a dozen times in the middle of actually writing it? Change a word here, rephrase a sentence there, correct a minor grammatical error in paragraph one--and do you sign with "Sincerely" or "Thanks"--and did you use perhaps a few too many times? Essentially, your cursor keeps running back and forth across the page like it's trying to get in the best shape of its life.

That's the result of your inner editor. You're constantly tweaking whatever you're trying to write--editing it--while still trying to write it. And how productive is that?

It's not terribly unproductive if you only have to compose a three paragraph email or a three hundred word blog article or college essay,  but it's pretty near impossible to complete an entire fifty thousand manuscript if you leave your inner editor turned on.

The inner editor is a persnickety beast. (Personally, I imagine her as an old lady with blond hair, rhinestone glasses, and red fingernails who likes to purse her lips at my writer self and shake her head sadly, clucking, "Now, now, that won't do." And then she gets out her huge red pen and makes my manuscript bleed.) She (or he) likes to tell you to fix things while you're still writing.

When she does this, you must politely decline and shut the door to her office so that she doesn't bother you. She's going to scream and shout and pound on the door until you let her out with her armada of red pens. And she's going to be cranky when she does come out. But, to finish a rough draft, sometimes you have to lock her away while you're still writing it.

Now, your inner editor can also be a good friend (sometimes she just needs taming with some chocolate or coffee to calm her down to a normal, less frantic state). But, you have to let her out only at certain times or she'll crush your inspiration. That's not conducive to writing. But make a friend out of your inner editor when you're actually editing. She's a valuable resource, rhinestone glasses and all.

Do you struggle with your inner editor? Any suggestions for "What is..." articles? 


  1. I imagine that my inner critic looks and sounds like Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) in Laura. Nothing is ever good enough for him, and he can be so scathing. I love to imagine locking him in a broom closet.

    1. Can't say I've seen the show, but the image you sent looks perfect! And I like the idea of locking him in a broom closet. Thanks for the comment!

    2. The best part about broom closets is how brooms keep knocking your foe on the head, and the mop buckets often smell. And it's very tiny.

  2. Hmmm, I think my inner editor looks like my religion teacher. She's a great lady and everything, but she demands perfection, so she makes a great inner editor. I have this agreement with her where she takes a walk while I draft, and when she comes back she's nice and refreshed for slashing my MS to bits. It works out well. We both like chocolate.

    I love your image of an inner editor! I can imagine that one very well. It's very kind of you to lock her in her office. If my inner editor was bad I'd probably lock her in a dungeon somewhere and set up a perimeter of orcs and fire breathing dragons. Whatever works, I suppose. Suggestions, hmmm... Different types of characters? Hero, villains, antiheroes? I don't know, just an off of the top of my head suggestion. Thanks again for a great post!

    1. That's nice of you to send her on a walk. Mine occasionally complains of Vitamin D deficiency from being locked up inside too long (she's also very health conscious and complains when I don't eat my fruits and veggies).

      Thanks for the suggestions and the comment!


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