Some really smart writer said it best: Writing is rewriting. The quote is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, but a whole lot of writers say the same thing. You need to get the first draft down, and maybe the second and the third, etc., and then the real work begins.
Ah, if only it were that simple. My process is a bit more complicated, because my internal editor is a FEROCIOUS PIRATE! ARRGHHH!
She pulls out her saber and rattles it at me until I go back and fix the “mistakes” piling up behind me. I put “mistakes” in quotes, because until the whole novel is written, I don’t know for sure if they’re actually mistakes. I might change some detail because FEROCIOUS PIRATE EDITOR is yelling and waving her saber around — threatening the furniture, not to mention my poor husband — and then decide in the next draft that the detail I took out was exactly what was needed. (Hence the ARRGHHH!)
I know, I know, why don’t I find a way to silence FEROCIOUS PIRATE EDITOR? It’s not that easy when you’ve been a professional editor and proofreader for many years, as I was before I retired from all that a couple of years ago.
The sad truth is, it’s darn near impossible to shut her up. I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’d tie her hands behind her back, but unfortunately we share the same hands, and I can’t type without them. I’d blindfold her so she couldn’t read over my shoulder, but ditto above: Same pair of eyes. Can’t drug her or get her staggering drunk, for the same reason: I need the brain we share to keep track of the complicated plots I concoct.
So, what else can I do but negotiate an uneasy truce? Before the final edit and polish, I try my best to ignore the noisy, saber-wielding pirate standing behind my right shoulder, watching the words appear on the screen. (Yes, even these words. You see what I have to put up with?)
In an effort to make her behave, I whisper sweet, soothing words: I know you’re there, dear heart. I acknowledge you. I salute you. I couldn’t get along without you. Now just hold the noise down a bit until I’m ready for you, okay? You’ll get your chance very soon, I promise.
Temporarily placated, FEROCIOUS PIRATE EDITOR whirls into a gleeful pirate dance and chortles in her rum. It’s messy, but I’ll take it. Anything for a chance to draft my novels in peace.