Friday, September 22, 2006

The Inner Critic

I've discovered that while all writing is difficult, for me the hardest part is the first few chapters of a first draft. I whine and pout and compost and dream, but actually sitting down and cranking out the work is hard. Why is this? I surmise a few reasons.

a) This is my fifth novel. I know all the work that must come between now and the words "The End". Starting means finishing.

b) My inner critic, the one I just let loose on novel number four, must be captured, contained, and confined to the calaboose during the first draft phase of the new novel. My inner critic resists this procedure.

c) The first few chapters of a novel is the period when I know my characters the least, when I have the least invested in them, therefore care about them the least. Though I like all my characters at the beginning of a novel, it isn't until we've spent a significant amount of time together, until I've dragged them to the highs and lows of the story, that I feel I really know them and don't want to quit working until I get them out of the trouble I've dreamed up for them.

That being said, I have managed a few thousand words on the novel, and I need to set some writing goals in the near future to keep myself on track. I have a nebulous goal of First Draft by Christmas, but am wondering if that is too imprecise. I'm liable to goof around and not do much until Thanksgiving is suddenly upon me. A daily or weekly goal will be much better, as long as I keep it realistic.

How about you? Do you have an inner critic that keeps you back at the start of a new book?


  1. Donna8:53 PM

    Absolutely!! My inner critic appears in the form of all the people who told me, all through the years that I was dumb, or couldn't do anything right, or that nobody would want to read THAT. Of course, I can put up a pretty good fight these days, having just sold my first book. I'm not dumb, I did something right and someone did want to read it! Enough to pay me so that others can read it too.

    I think we need to develop--instead of an inner critic--and ability to see ourselves as God sees us. We need to see His vision and not what we feel is our own unworthiness. I like that bumper sticker: God don't make Junk.

    Maybe we all need to learn to silence the inner critics by something as simple as: With God ALL THINGS are possible. Book five? Piece of cake! Tell that inner critic to take a long hike!

  2. I definitely have an inner critic, but mine comes out at the end, after revisions, to tell me that it's not good enough. It tells me that it's all GAR-BAGE, and what was I thinking?

    But you're totally right about the beginning, knowing the characters the least, and how it affects a story. I re-write beginnings SO many many times, then the end seems to come together more quickly.

  3. My inner critic dogs my heels all the way through! And it's so tempting to go back and revise, revise, revise before finishing, but I've had to force myself to just write, not worry about editing while writing the first draft, and keep notes on what I feel needs to be changed when I go back for the second draft.

  4. "Use the talents you possess for the world would be very silent if no birds sang except the best." attribution unknonw.