Taming the Beast, or Silencing the Internal Editor (with a Capital “E”)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

As usual, I came back from WorldCon totally inspired and ready to win a Hugo. (It’s good to have dreams and a lofty goal, you know.)

I had the story in mind—the one that I was going to dust off and send off for publication—dug it out of my files . . . and immediately froze up.

While writing an original draft, I can usually silence the internal editor, or at least keep her murmurings at a distance far enough that they can be effectively ignored. Editing, however, is a whole other matter. (And see? I’m writing this instead of working on that.)

I suffer from no illusions that my first drafts are pristine and perfect, but I have often turned them into second (and sometimes third) drafts that are often worse. I’m never certain whether the changes I see are the right ones. I know I get too close to the work and its characters, finding it difficult to edit their lives based solely on some half-baked notion on what might or might not be working in the story.

(It does not help that when I do start in on the next draft, my Myers-Briggs Type tendencies creep in and want to explore alternate modes of the storyline. I think that I could, if left unconstrained, turn out half a dozen variations on a single story idea. That, however, is not the goal.)

Anyone have any tips for editing your own work?