NaNoWriMo Adventures: Keeping Your Inner Editor Quiet

As of today, NaNoWriMo has officially begun, and Peder and I couldn’t be more excited! We will warn you that our posts will likely become a bit shorter/simpler this month as we try to conserve our writing energies and limited time resources for our NaNo needs (or mine will, at least, since Peder’s super powers include becoming a frakking writing machine), but rest assured we will keep the U.S.S. Nerdologists running at full speed as much as we can!

Image Credit: Know Your Meme
Image Credit: Know Your Meme

In honor of NaNo, I’ve decided to talk about some tips for beating that tenacious and persnickety beast known as the inner editor. As a moonlighting copyeditor, my inner editor is extremely useful, but when it comes to my own writing, she tends to trip me up abominably, and has been the cause of death for more abandoned stories than I care to admit.

My inner editor is one of the biggest obstacles I face during NaNo, so I want to share some things I’ve learned that help me keep her quiet, at least for a little while. If you’re tackling NaNo this year, whether for the first time or the fifth, I hope you’ll find them useful too!

Use an online writing tool

This is one of the more fun (and less psychologically fraught) ways to keep yourself chugging along. There are tons of writing tools on the internet, many of them free. My personal favorite is Written? Kitten! After you hit your pre-chosen word count (from 100 to 1000 words), the site shows you a picture of a cute kitten! I recommend copying and pasting your work into your primary document to save it often, since you’re just writing in a text box in this site, but it’s a way to keep yourself on task that’s both fun and delightfully silly.

If you’re looking for something even more minimalist and straightforward, apps and sites like ZenPen, Omm WriterQuiet Writer, and Writer are just a few of the many great choices out there. They allow you to write within a stark, clean space that has as few buttons, options, and other distractions as possible.

I recommend tools like these because, in stripping away all the fluff and setting mini-goals for yourself, all you need to focus on is getting those words on the page, and not about whether a story is springing forth fully formed like Athena from Zeus’s head.

Bite it off in smaller chunks

When I sit down to work on my daily NaNo writing, I often feel as though I have to finish all 1,667 words in one sitting. Not so! If I work in chunks of 20 or 30 minutes, with breaks of a few minutes in between, the whole thing feels a lot more manageable, and might even get done faster. It can also help me maintain the stamina I need to keep writing in spite of my inner editor’s noisiness — it’s a whole lot easier to fend her off for 20-minute bursts than 2-hour slogs.

Resist the urge to check social media every two sentences

No but for real, you guys, RESIST. IT. You may not think this one has anything to do with your inner editor, but believe you me, it does. Part of my problem with this is due to the fact that I have the attention span of a twitchy housecat, but the other is that the very second I start to deliberate as I’m typing along, or I think, “Hmm…is that really the best way to say this?”, my focus breaks, and I immediately want to trawl Facebook or Pinterest or some other time-sucking site, and end up losing a good 20 minutes or more. And I’m serious when I say immediately. Don’t believe me? I just did it while writing this very post!! I am the actual worst.

Anyway, the moral is that this is a really easy way to lose a lot of time, and a really important thing to avoid. And once you’ve resisted the urge two or three times, you’ll be in the zone anyway and you won’t have to fight it off as much. So do what you have to do — have someone sit near you and tell you to get off Facebook, install a browser add-on that limits or blocks your access to time-wasting sites, write on a typewriter…whatever it takes to push through that impulse to quit the second the going gets rough!

Image Credit:
Image Credit:

Remember that done is better than perfect

Out of all of the things on this list, I think this one is key. As writers, a lot of us are convinced that everything we write must be beautiful and arresting and perfect the second it leaves our brains and hits the page, but the reality is that no one writes like this. No one! Did you hear me? I’ll say it again — NO ONE! It’s okay if your first draft is not Pulitzer prize-worthy. That’s what first drafts are for! So don’t overthink it — just write. Don’t reread what you wrote last time every time you sit down to write again. Don’t change anything until you’re done, even if what you wrote in Chapter 1 no longer makes sense in Chapter 10. Don’t even worry about grammar and spelling right now. Challenge yourself to write the crappiest first draft possible, if you have to. Just get those words on the page! Get that raw lump of clay all prepped and ready to be molded into something beautiful later on. Just keep. on. going! And I promise, everything else will eventually fall into place.

These are just a few things that I try to do to keep that darn inner editor quiet for at least a little while (it’s a work in progress, but we’re getting there!). What are some of your tips and tricks for staying on target during NaNo, or whenever you sit down to write? Tell us about them in the comments — you just might help a fellow writer out!

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