When to Tell Your Inner Editor to Shut Up!

We’re not supposed to tell people to shut up. We’re supposed to be polite and considerate.

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Icon Design by Creative Freedom
All copyright for Shimmer Icons belongs to Creative Freedom Ltd.

I’m here to tell you that sometimes we need to tell our inner editor to shut up.

I’m not saying we don’t need to edit our work. On the contrary, I even wrote this post, 7 Tips for Self-Editing, but there is a time and a place for said editing.

When you’re writing your first draft, I strongly advise you not to edit. Let your ideas flow. If you try to edit now, you may never finish your novel. Or worse yet, you’ll stifle your creativity.

There is another voice, one that may or not be your inner editor. The one that tells you this isn’t any good. Why on earth did you think you could be a writer? You should just give up before anyone discovers you can’t really write.

These, my friends, are the voice of the enemy. Do not believe his lies.

Recently, I heard these words burn through my mind. When you begin to hear the lies, turn to our source of truth. Pray that God’s voice would be the only one you would hear. Ask Jesus to silence everything that is not from Him.

I’ve started doing this every time I sit down to write. It is making a huge difference. We can choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

If you’re trying to write your first novel or first draft of a new project, focus on getting it all out on paper or the computer screen. It’s fine to check and make sure your book is keeping in check with your outline and overall story and character goal, but don’t try to make it perfect.

Have you ever had to tell your inner editor to shut up? Do you have any tips to keep yourself going when you feel like giving up?

How I Really Landed a Book Contract

BlackberriesAs a child visiting the family homestead, I went on numerous blackberry-picking adventures with my Missouri cousins. Toting buckets, we ventured deep into woods thick with brambles while keeping an eye out for iron pyrite nuggets to load down our pockets.

We returned, hours later, to be met by Aunt Ethel and her various soaps and ointments. Despite our bites and bugs and itches, we had little to show for our efforts but purple stains on our face and hands. I still remember the taste of sun-warmed berries cramming my mouth, handful by greedy handful. I remember, too, the sting of berry juice in the long red welts I collected.

Exchanging pain for sweetness seemed a reasonable trade to me as a child. I’m more circumspect now.

My life as a writer has had its share of thorns. I’ve tried hard to make my dreams come true, which means that I’ve gathered my share of rejections. When my golden moment finally came, and I held a contract for my first nonfiction book in my hand, it seemed surreal.

The contract fell through.

Looking back with the knowledge I have now, I probably had a lucky escape from a disreputable offer. As I learned in my childhood, all that glitters may be fool’s gold.  I knew none of this then. All I understood was that I had held my dream in my hands and watched it crumble to nothing.

I gave up writing. For life. If I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail again. My scratches wouldn’t have to sting.

But I tasted no sweetness either.

Years went by and still I did not write. Had I not made time for daily devotions, I might not have returned to writing at all. I prayed to understand God’s plan for my life, and a funny little question formed in the back of my mind: I’m not supposed to be writing, now am I? I pushed the irritating thought away, but it returned. No matter how I tried to ignore the idea, it would not be stilled. To appease my conscience, I gave lip service to writing again but avoided doing so. And when several people invited me to join the same writing group, Northwest Christian Writers (NCWA), I expressed an interest but put it off.

And then, one morning while in prayer, I surrendered my fears to God.

At the first NCWA meeting I attended, I felt lost. Everyone else seemed to know exactly what they were doing while I had no plans beyond showing up at meetings. After several months, I’d identified a goal. I would finish writing the epic fantasy series I’d abandoned so many years ago. This January I signed a contract with Harbourlight Books for publication of DawnSinger and WayFarer, the first novels in my Tales of Faeraven series.

In risking the thorns again, I’ve learned to approach my desires with more caution. I no longer have writing ambitions; I have a calling to write, something altogether different. Although I’ve attained it, my first goal is no longer publication, but rather to tell my stories with truth and grace. If I succeed in this, I’ve accomplished a different and better dream, one that’s worth a few scratches.

When Do I Give Up?

It was my very first writers conference. I waited impatiently for my critiqued manuscript from a well-known and well-respected literary agent. Sitting on a bench under a tree, I opened the large manila envelope and pulled out my crisp, white pages that now ran red with scarlet ink – each red slash a tiny cut to my heart.

It was the moment I gave up.

Deflated and discouraged, I forced myself to stuff my dead work into its paper coffin, and attend the “Turning Your Chapters into Articles” class. I decided I would dismantle my much-loved dream and try to use it still. Being overly dramatic is a literary trait, and I wondered if this was a tiny taste of how the loved one of an organ donor feels. My manuscript that I loved would be used for good, but not in the way I’d hoped.

After the class, I met with the editor who led it. She asked how I was doing. (Apparently, that afternoon, Alice Cooper and I shared the same makeup artist.) She went on to encourage me not to give up on my dream. “This is one agent’s opinion, Joanne,” she gently reminded me. Her words gave me a microscopic ray of hope. (Purchasing an article for her magazine helped my mood, too.)

The agent who sliced my work like Dexter did me a great favor. He showed me how to shape my work in a way that would be acceptable the next time. Months later, I received my first book contract.

Since becoming an official “writer,” I have quit at least six hundred times. As a matter of fact, I even titled one of my emails to my agent, Rachelle, with these very words this summer: “When do you give up?” She immediately called and talked me down from the ledge, and recently addressed this timeless writer-question very eloquently in her blog.

I thought I’d share a few ways to encourage the quitter in you:

Take a laptop sabbatical. My computer recently died, and I thought I would too. Once my laptop was up and running again, so was I! Three weeks was just the break I needed. Giving my right-brain some creative rest helped me look forward to working on my next project.

Shake a leg. Exercise and I are not the best of friends. But whenever I get outside and get my blood pumping, it seems to clear the cobwebs in my middle-aged head. I take my recorder along, just in case I get an idea I can’t ignore.

Make time for someone. Get out of your self-centered word-filled world. Go out and see a movie. Call a writer-friend and vent a bit. Have a quiet night at home with your spouse. Cuddle up on the couch and read a book to your child/grandchild.

Fake your own death. Just wanted to see if you were still reading. Please don’t do this. Definitely not a good career move.

New York Times Bestselling Author, Susy Flory, recently shared a blog post that encouraged her. Agent Steve Laube reminded his many readers and wannabe-clients to never give up.

“John Creasy the English novelist kept at it. He kept getting rejected so decided to use pen names to create a new identity. Fourteen of them! Collectively he received 753 rejection letters. But he didn’t give up. His 754th became the first of his 564 published books. What if he had quit at the 700th rejection?”

This Christmas season, take a winter break and enjoy real life moments. Try to live this life you write about. Love the ones you are blessed to have alongside you, and pray God holds these tender moments close to your heart. A true writer must experience what they wish to convey. Gather up some word-filled ammunition for the coming year.

Regardless of what you do or don’t decide to do, giving up is not an option. It’s never an option. Never.

When was the last time you quit? What encouraged you to write again?

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