Forgive me, Padre

Forgive me, Padres, for I have sinned. And I will continue to sin, throughout the month of November.

My confession?

I edit. During NaNoWriMo.

I edit every single day. Sometimes more than once. I probably spend as much time editing during November as I do writing.

There. I said it.

Now, let me explain. (shh, Padre, shh. You can assign me my act of penance later. First, an explanation for my awful behavior. The other parishioners can wait, dammit!)

I have tried, over the last seven years, to adhere to the mantra (as an aside: there are virtually no rules in NaNoWriMo beyond 50k in 30 days. But there ARE suggestions, and some are more zealously encouraged than others. This is one of those) “DO NOT EDIT.” You will see these sagely words of wisdom repeatedly and with various means of emphasis during NaNoWriMo.

The reasoning behind this school of thought is that your inner editor is, in almost every case, a man/woman with his/her hand on the brake lever, ready at any moment to pull a Full Stop on your writing progress. And, in the process, scream epithets in your ear about the utter uselessness and awfulness of your writing efforts during November.

To wit: your inner editor is an asshole.

So, during NaNo, where the goal is 50k in 30 days, many writers make the conscious effort to lock their inner editors away, in deep vaults under heavy mountains on distant planets, and throw the keys into the fiery furnace of the local star.

No editing = no brakes, and no internal monologue of self-loathing.

Does this work? For some/many/most people, yes, absolutely.

For me? Nope. No way.

My stopping mechanism is different. It’s not a set of brakes being applied by a hypercritical inner child whose parents never showed any affection or approval. It’s rusty, creaky, near-to-frozen gears of thought that need constant and lavish lubrication to allow the machine to even function, let alone move forward at more than a snail’s pace.

What’s my manuscript-writing-machine lubricant of choice? My WD-40?


During November, I write for a few minutes. Then I stop. I ponder. I reconsider. I go backwards. I tweak. I add words. I rearrange paragraphs. I interject conversations.

I edit. Line by line. And while, on occasion, that results in the deletion of words, the net effect is always, always, an increase in word count.

Unfortunately, this line-editing process does mean that I move slowly. Sometimes embarrassingly slowly. Last year (much to the perverse delight of my local WriMos) I wrote 67 words during a 15-minute sprint. 67. That’s…not fast. That’s the opposite of fast. Writing 1,667 words a day, words I’m willing to live with, takes me forever. So, when people say they’re busy during November, I tend to roll my eyes. Busy? You have no idea.

It’s my own fault, but, yeah.

The next day, when I first open my manuscript?

I get sadistic.

I reread my scenes, and then I kick my complacent characters down the stairs. Then I march down the stairs and punch said character in the head, steal their lunch money, and make fun of their hair style. Then I stand back and see how they react to my torture. If it’s boring, I go back in and do it again. With flair and panache. Rinse and repeat, until my re-re-re-read elicits an evil grin.

Once I’m happy with my new, revised, dastardly scene, I rinse and repeat.

Write. Line edit. Sleep. Torture.

The end result has been, historically, a manuscript that’s passable. Not necessarily a first draft, but not exactly a zero draft either. Zero point five. Zero point seven, if I let my ego speak its mind.

So, yeah. I edit. It’s part of my process, and for me, it works.

Don’t agree with me? Cool. Have your own process that works? More power to you. And if anyone tells you your approach is wrong?

Push them down the stairs.


P.S. Two more quick things. 1. Square brackets are your friends! [insert something pithy here]. 2. Retconning during your own story is completely acceptable. There’s no WAY my Chapter Four can happen without completely rewriting Chapter Two. [Change Chapter Two in December] fixes that.

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