Dominating the Editor by E.M. Youman

I wrapped the cords around her wrist. She squirmed beneath me, lace garters scratched against my arm and I chuckled at her feeble attempts. Shackled, she rose to her knees and crawled along the bed toward me.
She cocked an eyebrow. “You think this will hold me?” she flexed her wrist against the telephone cord. One, two, three her arms broke free from the double buntline knot. A satisfied smile curled her lips and she lay back against the sheets. “If you had paid more attention to your sailing research you’d know how to tie a proper knot. Now back to that scene you just wrote. Cut it. Cut it all.”

An author’s life at times can get rather kinky. Especially when your editor doesn’t realize the submissive is the one that has all the control. Not the outside editor, the internal one. The one who will interrupt a perfectly good episode of Project Runway, Empire or you get the picture. They’ll interrupt the show just to needle you about that scene, the one that’s so horrible you should probably stop writing and take up knitting or rock climbing or anything actually achievable. ‘Cause you know, what you just wrote isn’t even fit for the cat to read.

There are several pages of Google dedicated to writers talking about taming the editor. You can find lots of horror stories about authors starting and then deleting whole novels because they just weren’t up to snuff. I never understood why someone would delete their hard work. Until one day she just completely took over.
How does the editor force you into an unwanted BDSM relationship?

Education, my dear Watson.
The more you work on your craft the more you demand of yourself. Remember those days when you could happily type for hours? And then suddenly you typed less, but the quality got better, so you didn’t care. Well, what happened? You learned about head hopping, adverbs and their juvenile delinquent friend the adjective. Remember him? You used to litter your work with him. You guys had a lot of fun writing scenes. At one point he was even in vogue, just ask Shirley Jackson. But now you’ve learned he’s not on trend and your editor only lets you play with on trend people. So now he’s in jail and you only get monitored visits.
When you learn about the do’s and don’ts of your craft the editor gains muscle.

The whip
A writing day now consists of  jotting a few lines, stopping, changing a word. Surely she did not roll her eyes across the room. Nah, she must have gave an eye roll from across the room. No, that doesn’t sound right, because now you’re telling the reader what she did instead of showing. You spend about fifteen minutes trying to write a scene without breaking any of the rules and suddenly you feel like you’re play operation. What’s that? Here’s a little 1960s nostalgia for you.

The Blues
Writing is like fun, man. Only now it’s not. You’ve run out of ideas. It’s not that they’re bad, but according to the editor they’re not good enough. You’ve hit that wall, and the white screen doesn’t feel so much like a blank canvas as much as it reminds you of a straitjacket.

The Submissive’s job
You’re the one that supposed to be in control. Yes, she’s pumped on craft steroids and she needs something to do. But her job doesn’t come until after you’ve put the horrible idea on paper. Yep, no original ideas here. Except this, if you tell yourself you’re going to write a crap why would you ever want to sit down and write?

Delusion
Sometimes great ideas come from crazy events. I just finished watching an episode of Lost. In this particular episode the Hunter had lost his way and his ability to speak. Does he go lay down and decide he’ll never find his purpose in life? Nope. He takes a psychedelic and sits in a homemade sweat lodge and waits for the island to send him an answer. I’d say he’s nut ball one hundred. But that’s what a writer needs, delusion. Stephen King said in his book “On Writing” a writer was delusional if they thought their first draft was great.

That’s how you tame the editor. You sit down and you plan to write a great draft. A Pulitzer prize winning, New York Times bestselling, Oprah couch worthy first draft. You chain up the editor and you plan to write a great first draft. Of course she’ll still scream from her cage that the story doesn’t make any sense in first POV, but if that is what you feel like writing, then write it. Whatever sounds like a bad idea must go on the page.

Is it really that easy?
Of course not. Remember those Google pages dedicated to this topic? Everyone has a different method for taming the editor. For me the solution was writing software. I don’t recommend any particular one, but yes, there is life beyond Microsoft Word. My choice was Scrivener. My Scrooge heart didn’t want to fork over the money. I was perfectly happy spending hours trying to make MS Word work for me. But then AppSumo had fifty percent off sale that made the coupon girl in me squeal. So I gave in and have been in writing heaven ever since.  Two key features that help TKO the editor: Scrolling and notepad.
Scrivener has a typewriter scroll feature. This means every time I start scrivener the cursor starts at the last line I wrote. MS Word always starts at the beginning of the document, which forced me to reread the previous day’s effort and the editor would put me to work revising. Now I read the last paragraph and continue typing where I left off. But E.M. you ask, couldn’t you have scrolled down to the last page in Word? You try scrolling past your work without rereading it.

Notepad
Scrivener’s interface is broken into different windows. As I’m writing, there’s a notepad on the right hand side. If I ever get worried I’m doing something wrong, I jot down a note  about it in the notepad and continue writing. Boom! That’s how you keep the editor in her.

Release the Kracken
Once you’ve finished the first draft, maybe you wait a day, a week or a month. By this time your editor is foaming at the  mouth and you can release the restraints and let her do what she does best.
Editor: You’ve repeated tsunami three times. Cut!
Editor: You’ve got your love interest meeting in a park? Cliché. Cut!

Seriously, when you get to this point you’ll be happy to let her do what she does best.
Balance, my dear Watson. That’s what an author needs. Balance.
Hopefully some of these tips help you.

About The Author

E.M. Youman is a freelance writer from Oakland, CA. Some of her short stories have been published by Black Cat Press, S/tick Magazine and IFF. When she’s not writing fiction, E.M. Youman, works at an independent record label and runs a music blog. She is currently working on her first romance novel.

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