Smackdown With Your Inner Editor

Do you wrestle with your inner editor? Do your eyes wander over the last paragraph you wrote, unable to rest until you've eliminated the little red squigglys under each word? Do you find it easier to spend your precious writing time analyzing previous pages than writing new words?

It's time for a smackdown.

Your creative side loves to explore new worlds and uncharted territory. Your analytical side wants to fix everything and make it logical. Unfortunately, to do both at the same time makes for a double-minded writer.

I've gathered a great crop of resources from other writers who have tackled this issue. They haven't solved it, but some of their advice might be exactly what you need to try to keep your editor at bay--at least until your manuscript is finished and it's time to let him or her out from exile.

 One thing I do when my inner editor won't keep quiet is to write in the dark. Yes, it's messy, but effective. Computer users can also choose a font color that matches your screen color so your words will be invisible, or dim your screen to black. Don't forget to save, though! If you have a desktop with a wireless keyboard, move across the room from your screen. Here are some more tips:

Mandy Houk, member of Pikes Peak Writers, shares a great visual for writers to understand what the inner editor does to our confidence.

Cassie Mae, at The Writer's Dojo, gives four practical tips for shutting off the inner editor. I really like her color idea.

Tina Radcliffe over at Seekerville, wowed me with her unauthorized cheat sheet of self-editing tips. I'll be using tip #4 to create my own 'weasel words' list.

The Nanowrimo blog has a post on A 7-Step Guide to Big Picture Revision (With Bonus Checklists!). I love using highlighters to help me visualize what's missing--or overdone.

And finally, Entrepreneur offers a list of ten words to cut from your writing. Super fast and easy fixes to get your manuscript into shape.

Have you found anything useful for keeping your inner editor locked up? Or is yours particularly well-behaved?


  1. Mine stays on my case! I'm fighting her tooth and toenail right now, but she is winning. I'm having a severe bought with insecurity - "There must be something wrong with your writing. No one likes it right now..." is what she says.

    I plan to introduce my inner editor and my muse in hopes that they can come up with something interesting and effective!
    Thanks for a confidence building post:)

  2. I love the 'tooth and toenail'! I think all of us writers deal with insecurity, and from the interviews I read (even the one above with DiCamillo), becoming a successful author doesn't eliminate those fears. Best of luck with your introduction!


  3. This is very helpful, Debbie. Thanks for this post.

    I *have* found something helpful to keep my inner editor at bay. Whenever analysis starts to lead to paralysis, I remind myself of a particular opportunity I passed up because of my lack of self-confidence. (Hold on, banging head against wall. OK, I'm back!) That thought of squandering an opportunity for such a silly reason shoves me forward when I start staring backwards for too long.

    Great links!


  4. You're so welcome, Kelley!

    Janette, that's a great exercise! I'm sure I have a few of those stories to tell...


  5. These are fantastic! I've been battling this issue lately. What I usually do is write in the morning and edit in the afternoon. What I've been doing is writing/editing at the same time. It does clog up the creative flow. I'm determined to get back to my former routine so that my writing will be fresh and spontaneous. Thank you Debbie for yet another interesting and useful post.

  6. Leah, that's a great idea. Sometimes if an edit pops into my mind (like 'I could have said it way'), I use the comment feature to leave myself a note and keep going. But your system might be even better!


  7. I never realized I had that problem until reading your I have a name for it! I have the habit of reading and re-reading a WIP to death. And sometimes I can't begin a longer non-fiction PB until I have "all my ducks in a row." Thanks for identifying the problem, Debbie...and finding solutions!

  8. Glad you're in the club with the rest of us, Jarm!




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