No, I’m not talking about my conscience. Neither am I talking about that “good” angel that sits on my shoulder and says, “No, don’t eat the potato chips AND the sandwich–too many carbs.” Those righteous voices never give it up, but that’s probably a good thing. Okay, it IS a good thing, but every once in a while, they get a little over zealous. A piece of chocolate? I mean, come on. The Thou Shalt Nots are a lot easier to deal with than the “Thou Could Have Done Betters.” The same thing goes for writing. The voice I’m talking about is the one that nags us and says “That’s not the perfect word for that sentence” or even worse, “Something’s not quite working here, and you should fix it.”
You know what they say–Everyone’s a critic. But it’s EASY to find fault. It’s a lot harder to fix it. You’d think a Muse might help. You know, send inspiration to make every scene perfect, every verb strong and active, no word repetition, sizzling similes, magnificent metaphors, and dialogue that rings true. But not so. Muses just tease us. They send us an idea that kicks our imaginations into overdrive and then say “You’re welcome” and pat themselves on the back and leave us to it. Bringing that idea to life is our job. And sometimes, it’s a real pain in the you know what.
I can’t dive in and go with the flow when I get an idea. Been there, tried that, and I run out of steam somewhere and it shows. Talk about soggy middles. I need some kind of framework to hang my words on. But even then, even when I know the story’s going in the right direction, I can still end up with scenes that mock me and refuse to come out the way I envision them in my head.
When I was younger and more carefree, I stuck a few patches on those scenes, blew kisses at them, and hoped for the best. But do you know what? When I got my pages back from my beta readers, those were the pages that always swam in red ink. So now, I listen to the inner voice that says “Nope, not there yet. Try again.”
I don’t always know how to fix those spots. But it almost always means I didn’t get something right earlier and I don’t have my dominoes in place for that scene to work. Now, instead of beating that scene to death with better words, sharper dialogue, I take a step back and look at the scenes that led up to the moment in question. Because, unfortunately, that inner voice is always right.
I’m a person who deals very well with shades of gray. Things don’t always have to be black or white, right or wrong for me. I’m not a perfectionist who will always find fault with myself. But I distinguish whether a scene is good or just sort of good. And there are so many talented writers out there, sort of good just isn’t good enough. So when my inner writer alarm goes off, I mark that scene and come back to it. And I make myself fix it. And if I can’t, I give my critique partners the pages and admit that I’m not happy with the way it turned out and hope they can give me ideas to make it work.
I hope your inner voice is steering you in the right direction, and happy writing!