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Is the Fear Monster Eating Your Words?

It always feels easier in the beginning.

The brilliant idea.

You take your color-coded index cards, pages of outline, and the daydreams of seeing the shiny cover of your (now published and in its fourth printing) book and get to work!

But then . . .somewhere in the middle, things get difficult.

Before you know it . . .

that work in progress isn't really working anymore. Suddenly you are cranking out a few thousands words in a writing session. Sometimes stories need to simmer in our brains. Sometimes we need distance to gain perspective. But sometimes our fear of making mistakes drains our creativity faster than a newly Drainoed pipe.

Five Signs The Fear Monster is Eating Your Words

*You write a sentence. Decide to move a comma. Five minutes later, after heavy consideration, you move the comma back to its original location.
*You start a chapter, write three paragraphs, decide it all sucks and rest your finger on the backspace key for a solid two minutes.
*You write a sentence, decide you're thirsty, and return to your computer two hours, one cappuccino, and three Friends reruns later.
*You've reread your previous progress enough times to have it memorized (complete with a variety of different voice options for a side character that only makes an appearance twice in the whole story).
*You open your document, stare at it for a minute, then close it again. For the fourth day in a row.

While some things, such as comma placement and scene cutting are great for the revision phase, they shouldn't weigh you down while drafting. Sometimes being overly critical of your work in the beginning stage can cause you to be too stagnant and never make progress. So push that fear monster aside and let the creative juices flow. There will be plenty of time to fine tune once that draft is finished!

Do you edit as you write? Do you ever feel it stifles your creativity in the drafting process?
Amanda Hannah

Amanda grew up on a big farm in a small town with one stoplight, one school, and a handful of imaginary friends.She would’ve gone to college forever, but eight years and five majors tested her advisor’s patience. So she moved to Germany to explore creepy castles before landing in Spain where she’s perfecting her Flamenco.

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  1. I edit as I write, and I find it actually helps my process. I'm the type that'll stop, cut a scene mid-scene, and restart the scene. Not every scene, mind you. But it isn't unusual for a story to have a scene or two where I miss something my subconscious is trying to tell me and therefore have to try a few times to get it right—and since I'm a minimal plotter, I have to fix that scene before I can move forward.

    If I try leaving something to come back and fix later, I often end up with writer's block, because something in a following scene will hinge on that one.

  2. I only edit sometimes. If I really really really love what I've written, I'll go back and read/edit it. Mostly I just move forward. I know that if I start editing, the fear monster will attack.

  3. When did writing a few thousand words in a writing session become the sign of trouble? I get maybe an hour or two to write when I'm able (usually around 8-9pm after work), so I'm lucky to churn out a thousand or so. Heck, I'm bragging to my friends if I write "a few thousand" in one session.

    And in answer to the question, I'll usually go back and read what I wrote from my last session. I do it less for editing purposes and more to recall the voice of the piece so I stay consistent. Sometimes days will interrupt my writing, and I can forget the precise voice I was trying to convey.

  4. My tendency is to edit as I write, but I have to stop doing it. I need to put up with the garbage on my screen for the sake of writing the first draft. I know I can take care of polishing the prose at revision time--I've done it before. Editing on the fly drags my productivity to a near halt, which is really frustrating. The only thing worse than a book with great potential that needs revision, is a book with great potential that's never finished.

  5. I never edit as I write, because otherwise I'd never get anything done. If there's something that's really bothering me, I'll make a note to come back to it later on during revisions, but aside from that, I just write the whole draft without stopping.

  6. I'm a chronic edit-as-I-write writer and I HATE it. It's debilitating. I'm going to try an entirely different approach on my next WIP and see how far I can get. One plus about NaNoWriMo is the deadline forces you to churn out wordcount without the luxury of edit-as-you-go. Sure you have a mess on your hands at the end, but you can't edit what's not on the page, right?

  7. Editing while writing is becoming a worse and worse action for me. I am getting much more out of the fast first draft, and I advocate this to my students.

  8. I can't edit while I write. I tried it with my current WIP and it backfired on me. I ignored the manuscript completely, because of all the "mistakes I was trying to fix." I just began working on it last night. It's going to be an awful revision process, but at least now I know for the future that technique doesn't work for me.

  9. I edit as I write. Sometimes it doesn't effect anything, at least nothing I notice. Other times—like NOW—it makes me go crazy! I've already been working on this one project for 2 years; my editing-while-writing is making my motivation even worse! Hopefully I can staunch this habit...

  10. I just finished my first novel and I found it beneficial to edit as I write. However, I waited until I was officially done with the book before I began the official editing process. I personally HATE editing. Especially when you have almost 145 pages in a word document to edit. It's dreadful but beneficial.

  11. I edit as I write. I am a former journalist; the process is a part of me. An article had to be as clean as possible before sending it to an editor. I need to have the writing in decent shape before I move on. This makes me slower, but I don't find it debilitating. The revising/polishing at the end is what I hate. Finding overused words, etc. So, if it's in good shape at the end, then that process goes faster.

  12. This is such a timely post for me! I have let the fear monster in lately (all five of them, actually) and I know it's killing my creativity. Definitely will be bookmarking- no, printing out this post and taping to the wall above my desk.

    Actually, maybe I should tape it to my TV screen so I don't watch another Big Bang...


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Item Reviewed: Is the Fear Monster Eating Your Words? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amanda Hannah