Keli Gwyn
Six Strategies for Silencing Your Internal Editor

Eagle Eye, the Internal Editor

Is your Internal Editor friend or foe?

It can be both.

When we’re in the midst of revisions, the Internal Editor is our ally. But when we’re pouring forth a rough draft, we don’t need that critical voice hampering our creativity.

An over-eager Internal Editor is one of Twelve Troublemakers that plagues me as a writer. I’m exploring one a week. This is the fourth the series.

Creativity needs free rein.

I’m in the early stages of planning my next book. This past weekend, my wonderfully supportive hubby and resident plotting partner and I spent several hours brainstorming ideas. Watching a story evolve was exciting.

In the near future, I’ll begin writing my first draft. When I do, it will be important to let the words flow freely. There will be plenty of time for editing later, and I’ll gladly welcome the assistance of my Internal Editor.

For now, I have to evict Eagle Eye, not an easy task for a recovering perfectionist like me.

Here are six strategies that can help silence the Internal Editor.

  1. Work fast.
  2. Embrace the joy of creation.
  3. Adopt an “anything goes” philosophy.
  4. Have a goal of getting words on the page.
  5. Resist the urge to read what’s already written.
  6. Remember that there will be time to edit later.

* * *

When do we release the Internal Editor? The answer will vary from one writer to the next.

For those who work best by remaining in the zone, forging ahead is key. For others, like me, who prefer to edit as we go, making an intentional shift from creative mode to editing mode can help.

I write on screen during the day and edit on hard copy in the evening. When I’m at the keyboard, I use the strategies above. When I work on printed pages, I make notes by hand. Separating the tasks this way helps me switch from writing to revising and back again.

I’m the first to admit I don’t have this down. There are days when my Internal Editor casts a critical eye over my story during the creative stage and I have to bind and gag the intruder, shove it outside my office, and shut the door.

* * *

Making Wise Use of Your Internal Editor . . . and a Drawing

How do you silence your Internal Editor while writing your first drafts?

When do you invite your Internal Editor out to play?

One person who leaves a comment and answers one of these questions will win the eagle pictured above. If you don’t have a use for this cute little Folkmanis finger puppet, you could always share it with a child or grandchild.

I’ll hold the drawing Sunday, March 6th and post the winner’s name in the post published the next day, when I’ll introduce the next of the Twelve Troublemakers.

Yammers, the Yakkity Yak from last Monday’s drawing went to Tamika Eason.

Odds of winning vary based on number of entrants.
I’ll ship to U.S. and Canadian addresses only.
Offer void where prohibited.
Keli Gwyn


  • oh man, great post. My little Internal Editor and I go rounds! I write my first draft which consists of 80% of the real MS then I go back in and layer, fix, etc. which is when I’m not supposed to be editing, but sometimes i do and it slows me down. ugh. I might shoot him some day. except that would be counter productive since I need him after layering. hmmm what to do.

    great post!

  • Wendy says:

    I feel extremely free to do 1-6 during the rough draft. My internal editor chomps at my heels from draft two and on…and on…and on. I heart writing the first draft. 😉
    ~ Wendy

  • Keli, we’re on a similar tack this morning! I am getting better with the old IE. It helps sometimes to look back at earlier manuscripts and realize how far they came from first draft to final. It allows me to cut myself more slack. 🙂

  • Susan Mason says:

    Hi Keli,

    I can so relate to this! I’m in the process right now of getting the first draft done and it takes conscious effort not to go back and fix everything I did the day before! Especially when I usually re-read what I wrote to get me in the right frame of mind to start the next scene. I cringe sometimes at what I did – and, yes, often end up fixing little things before starting in again.

    Love your idea of editing the pages in printed out form! I’m going to try to start doing that – once we get our new wireless printer. Right now printing is a hassle in our house!


  • Susan Mason says:

    P.S. No offense, but don’t enter me for the draw. I’m trying to get rid of extraneous toys, knickknacks, etc. around our house – decluttering slowly but surely. 🙂

  • I think most writers fall into two camps: the edit as you go and edit later. I’m the edit as you go type. For each writing session, I edit the piece or chapter I’m working on before I begin to write more.

  • Thank you for exposing the intrusive Internal Editor that tries to take over during first-write, cramping creativity with its obsessive-compulsive tendency.

    I wrote my first draft so long ago that it’s difficult to remember. I think I was less critical in those days as a new writer, knowing few of the key issues. The words piled onto the page then. I thought I could write because I was good at grammar, so on and on I went.

    Now I must fight the Internal Editor, in first draft writing, or it will impede my progress. Even in writing poetry I’ve discovered that it is best to hold back edits, returning, after the first draft is finished, to change words and phrases. Blessings to you, Keli…

  • Jill Kemerer says:

    I get paralyzed when I try to write my first draft perfectly. So I tell myself to throw every “just,” “really,” and other obnoxious filler words in. I’ll Find/replace them in revisions. Also, I set high word count goals so my internal editor doesn’t have time to knock on my door.

  • LOL, Keli, I’m positive we’re long-lost sisters. Perfectionists unite! 🙂

    I need to do #5 more often. Usually I go back a few pages and read what I wrote to refresh my memory, but then it turns my internal editor on and I discover I’ve wasted an hour nitpicking. I like the idea of editing on hard copy because it would force me to not get bogged down in the details.

  • Julie Nilson says:

    As a forner copyeditor, I find it really difficult to free write–at the very least, I have to correct my typos before I can continue or they will eat at me!

    But one way I silence the internal editor is to just take the chunk that I’m thinking about cutting, and cut-and-paste it into another document. I also will sometimes write a paragraph here and a paragraph there, with transitions that say things like, “***somehow she gets to the train station***” Then I just try to deal with those sticky parts another time. I end up with a lot of piecemeal copy, but when I eventually string it all together, it’s very satisfying.

  • erin says:

    I have the opposite problem… my inner editor is often too quiet and when she finally comes out, my WIP has a lot of typos/mistakes.

  • Olivia Newport says:

    Usually I will write straight through to a critical point in the story, then go back and edit those chapters before moving ahead. By the time I get to chapter 8, I may have a better idea of what chapter 2 or 4 must accomplish, and I want to have all the threads in place as I begin to tug at them. I try to write as clean as possible as I go along, but inevitably I have the experience of “What was I thinking?” and get busy fixing the early chapters. That process reminds me where the bar is as I move forward into the next chunk of the novel.

  • Terri Tffany says:

    I just want to say what a cool husband you must have to help brainstorm with you. He must come train mine:)

  • I find NaNoWriMo great to make me write fast and ignor the internal ed.
    I wish I could ignor the internal ed more on the 2nd draft and let her loose on the 3rd… working on it.