Friday, June 17, 2011

Tea With My Inner Editor

~~I owe the following conversation to Charlotte Rains Dixon. She offered free, fifteen-minute coaching sessions on her blog last week. Knowing I needed help to shut my inner editor up, I jumped on the offer. Among the wonderful suggestions was this one—have a discussion with your inner editor. Picture them. Talk to them. Explain their roles in your writing. This clicked with me. I don’t know if your inner editor is male or female, human, elf, or fairy, but mine is me.

~~If you are wondering how on earth I could have a photo of my younger self dressed as a 1950s school teacher, there’s a story behind it. Of course. ; ) When I was in high school, we had a 50s dress-up day. I borrowed an old suit from my momma, twisted my waist-length hair into a tight bun, and painted my lips and nails scarlet. And guess who won? That’s right—me. The teachers who judged the contest loved being reminded what their teachers looked like in the 50s.
~~So without any further ado, here’s "Tea With My Inner Editor"


     It was a shock to see her sitting on the floral wing-backed chair, hands folded primly in her lap. The tight little smile painted in Revlon Million Dollar Red was so unlike her usual scowl. The dark brown hair as the same—a tightly rolled bun at the nape of her neck. The same white handkerchief and pink lilies of the valley adorned the severe, tight, black suit. I’d never seen her in a different outfit. Never.

     "Would you like some tea, Miss?" My voice squeaked. If I didn’t find a way to settle my nerves this chance to set things right would be for naught. And somewhere deep inside I knew it was the only chance I had to get my writing off square one.

     "That would be nice, dear."

     I was puzzled. It didn’t sound like her voice. There was no censure, no reprimand. Just ultimate politeness.

     "It’s sweet of you to ask." The small leather pump tapped twice.

     Swallowing hard, I asked, "Darjeeling or Earl Grey?"

     "Oh, the Earl unless you have some of Old Wilmington’s Lord John Grey." Her voice trailed off, a brow raised in question.

     She reads Diana Gabaldon’s books? I couldn’t picture her reading the life and loves of my favorite characters, Jamie and Claire. That didn’t seem possible, but only a fan would know about that tea. "Uh…no. If the Earl will do?"

     "Of course, dear."

     Her hands were still clenched tightly as I gently placed my prize teapot on the low table. I’d pay for the Earl Grey with hives, but it was worth it if we could come to terms.

     "I asked you here to visit when I didn’t have a pen in my hand for a reason." My cup rattled against the saucer. My nerves staged a new assault and tightened my throat.

     "Yes, dear? I assumed there was a reason." Irony made her voice resonant.

     "Well, you see—"

     "Get to the point, dear. Or I’ll have to get out my red pen." The toe was tapping again.

     Swallowing the lump, I blurted, "You’re blocking my writing. I’ll never finish Laura Grace’s story much less ever have a hope of really starting Canda’s. You never let me finish a sentence without that hectoring voice in my ear. ‘No adverbs. Choose a stronger verb. Every sentence in that paragraph is in the subject-verb pattern and in the one before, they all started with a gerund clause.’ Or if that’s not enough, you remind me that a first person narrator never notices herself grin or frown and you snarl, ‘Your body language is a cliché and your setting is non-existent!’"

     I paused to catch my breath and looked up at her. The golden-brown eyes were wide with shock behind her wire-rimmed glasses. A tear gathered in the corner of her eye.

     Brows drawn down, she looked at her clenched hands, knuckles white with stress. "All I ever wanted was to see you succeed, dear. I didn’t know. Truly I didn’t." Her voice was thick with unshed tears.

     "Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you, Miss Editor. Really, I didn’t. And I do need you. It’s just you get in the way when I’m writing my rough draft. It’s stifling, actually." The shiny head rose a bit and a smile tugged at the ruby lips. "And yes. I’m used nearly every ‘ly’ word I can think of and ‘just’ in nearly every sentence, but, Miss Editor, I need you to understand—I’ve got to have room to maneuver when I’m drafting or I’m never going to complete a sentence much less a novel." My whine grated on my ears, but she had to see.

     "Could you…" I wracked my brains and then a light sparked to life. "Could you take tea and read Outlander while I’m drafting. Just until I have a draft that needs editing…"

     A flicker of hope lit my heart as her little smile grew. A delicate sip later, the smile became a warming sun, rising on a new day. "Yes, dear. That would be lovely. I’ve missed Jamie and Claire." The smile grew into a wicked grin. "In fact, I might just let my hair down." She reached up and released the tightly wound bun. A cascade of silky brown fell over her shoulders. "Yes, just let me know when I’m needed." Her toes kicked out of the tight shoes. And she unbuttoned the jacket. "I think I need a break right now. If that’s all right with you."


~~So now I know what to do when I need to write—tell Miss Inner Editor to get a cup of Lord John Grey and visit Jamie and Claire.

~~What do you do to get your inner editor to be quiet?

~~P.S. Miss Editor didn’t take her red pen to this. Something about a certain masterful scene at Castle Leoch…

~~P.P.S. If you don’t know what scene I’m referring to, go get a copy of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander immediately and follow it up with all the rest of the series. I dare you to read 100 pages and stop. ; )


  1. Oh Zan Marie, this is absolutely wonderful! You found a perfect solution for your inner critic and wrote a great story/post. Yay!

  2. LOL! Can I send my inner editor over to have tea with yours?

  3. Charlotte,
    I owe it all to you. Now to find the right venue to publish this little story. Thank you again! ; )

    Only if she loves Jamie and Claire. Then they could converse *all* day and you and I would be left in peace. ; )

  4. Shucks, I could get sidetracked from writing too, if I had Lord John tea and was rereading Outlander!
    This is brilliant, Zan Marie! I have to link to it :-)

  5. Lovely, having tea with such a guest!

  6. Deniz,
    Thanks for the link. Now I'm worried that I'll be side tracked with her. Yikes!

    Thanks. ; )

  7. Now I know the formula, I'll send my IE on vacation - frequently.

  8. great post - smiling at start of my day thanks - I don't seem to have an inner critic at least maybe one drops in on the last ditch draft!! - maybe i just don't listen I don't know.

    All of you talking about yours has me in a puzzle - am I lacking - should I advertize - would yours come and visit I have Lady Grey tea would that be good enough for her?

  9. J.L.,
    Where in the world would you send you IE for vacation? You live in my favorite vacation spot! ; )

    Don't go looking too hard. Your inner editor is a polite one who shows up when needed instead of before the appointed hour. I'm sure the Lady Grey is taking care of the problem for you. ; )

  10. Love this, Zan Marie! And I love the, erhem!, masterful scene at Leoch. [wg]

  11. Hi there :)

    Just letting you know I tagged you on my blog!

  12. Hi, Tara,
    Masterful is it! Thanks.

    Oh, goodie! I'll go check my tag out.

  13. Zan Marie, this was just great. [g] You're pretty creative, you know that?

    Still figuring out how to get my inner editor to shut up. I'm not sure if it's my perfectionist streak or _actually_ my inner editor -- but whatever it is, the voice is really strong and persistent.

    I'm tempted to think I'm better off working with it instead of shutting it up; I'm left with a niggling sense of unease and 'this-isn't-right'-ness when I force it off and just write instead.

    Seconded/thirded/umpteen'd re: Castle Leoch. Probably my favorite of 'those' scenes in Outlander. [g]

  14. Hi, Jill,
    You need to do what's right for you. My inner editor can stop me from writing at all. I know what to do with her now. ; )

    I've got Vicki Pack's list of mmmppph scenes to choose from. (grin)

  15. LOL! Ah, I love this, Zan Marie. And maybe I should try offering my inner editor tea and a good book. I tend to just tell mine "shut up, already!" but a little bribery seems to work much better! :-)

  16. Thanks, Rachel. I'm still tickled about the whole idea. I've beefed it up a bit and seeking a place to submit it.

    My sister says it won't be the same without the pictures--there are five, but that would be a bit too much, don't you think? ; )

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  18. I just had to find out how you shut her up! I can't seem to get a word in edgewise and she isn't perfect. She is maddening, in fact. I can't even type this without her poking her nose in. She looks like my mom and no... she has never read Diana's wonderful world nor will she. It's just awful! *smile*
    Thank you for the wonderful piece...

  19. Zan Marie, I loved it, I haven't been able to look directly at my IE. Just the sound of her voice intimidates me. I suppose it's time to put my big girl panties on and face her down.
    Thanks for the entertaining inspiration. On second thought, maybe I'll get me a cup of Earl,,, er, Lord John Grey tea and take a break with Outlander.


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