Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Meet My (Not So) Best Friend

Part of the joys of writing quantity in a short amount of time is supposed to be that quality really doesn't matter. It's the whole, you can't edit a blank page, so 200 pages of garbage is still better than 200 pages of nothing.

This does make sense. You can't polish a diamond in the rough to a sparkling gem if you don't have the jewel in the first place.

Except, not caring about quality is a really hard thing to achieve. Dang near impossible if you ask me.

I don't know about anyone else, but my internal editor is the hardest working most underpaid employee in all the known universe. She's pretty much insatiable as to the amount of work she's willing to tackle. She's never taken a vacation, is up before dawn and awake long past the wee hours of the night, works all weekends and holidays, is, in fact, always on the job. She joyfully sits in the chair next to mine, peering over my shoulder at the monitor with what I've come to know is a smile of pure, evil bliss. With every word I put on screen, she sits up a bit straighter and becomes more corporeal. One of these days I have no doubt I'll turn around to find my mirror image looking me square in the eye, shaking her head in pity.

I've read countless tips and suggestions for how to send my internal editor packing, at least until I need her back for the editing stage. Probably the best advice comes from PBW in the form her Point #4 - never reread or backtrack when writing new stuff. Write and move on. Don't stop. Don't look over your shoulder.

And honestly, that's my biggest problem. It's the reason I sit in front of a screen for hours with not much more than a couple hundred words to show for it. I read and reread and reread again while the Internal Editor cackles over how utterly lacking in talent I am. Sadly, she rarely offers any advice so compelling as to solve the particular problem and shut her up. I suppose she realizes if she ever gave me the real solution to the problem, she'd find herself out of a job. She ain't no dummy, that one.

But this month I'm driving this train. I'm bound and determined to foil Internal at every turn. I'm not going to reread endlessly.

To that end, I have to wonder if word processing equipment such as an AlphaSmart might not be quite helpful. From the pictures of the various units, it looks as if a limited amount of text appears on the viewscreen at any given moment. As you type onward, your previously written stuff moves up and out of sight, therefore removing any temptation to reread. When you use even the smallest laptop or PC monitor, you are subject to at least half a page's worth of text, so it's awfully hard to ignore what's above the cursor.

Even so, as an effort to make NaNo work for me, I'm banishing my internal editor to a tropical beach somewhere very far away. She can enjoy the cute cabana boys while I try to accomplish something without her help. Perhaps I'll shrink my screen to nothing more than a line or two of text. However I manage it, I'm going to stop reading what I've already written.

Except to check for type-Os. That's okay, right?

3 comments:

Scrivener said...

LOL Lynn... even correcting typos is editing! ;) And you're right: it's very difficult to switch off that internal editor, which is probably yet another reason why I can't do NaNoWriMo.

And I couldn't possibly work with only a tiny amount of text in view on my screen. I need to be able to see what I've written, to remind myself of the mood of the story and of my current viewpoint character, as well as the recent events and so on.

Oh well! Just as well I decided that NaFinWipsMo is a better idea for me!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to impart a bit of ageless wisdom which I learned from, well, Magnum, PI.

(I know. I have no reasonable explanation for this. Just... he said it in an episode. I was about 11 years old, impressionable. It stayed with me.)

But just because it's from Magnum doesn't mean it isn't perfectly good or ideally suited to NaNo. It totally is!

Never mind the dogs, just work the lock.

Clearly we have Magnum trying to break-in somewhere, lockpics in hand. And bearing down on him are some pretty impressive, and apparently gunpowder-fed dogs.

Work the lock, Lynn.

Don't look left and don't look right. Don't even (you'll hate this) look at your typos. Just keep your eyes where they need to be. I realize an internal editor is scarier than any doberman. I've got one of my own. Sister to yours, apparently. Still, just work the lock.

And remember, March is National Novel Editing Month. Think how much enjoyment is waiting to be had there. You don't want to leave your (not so) best friend with nothing to do, do you?

Anonymous (because who in their right mind would admit they subscribe to the teachings of Magnum?!)

Lynn M said...

Ahhh, the wisdom of Magnum is always a good thing to follow :)

I'm doing pretty good so far. Yesterday, after I finished the first scene, I formatted it to double spacing and printed out the entire thing. Then I punched it and put it into a three ring binder. And I'm determined not to look at it again until much later, in its printed format.

Except, I do find that I have to sometimes go back just to refer to some bit of information I've divulged so I can be consistent. I suppose I shouldn't even do that. I should just put in a note to check facts later.

So. Ignoring those dobermans! Thanks for the support.