Inner Editor Woes? Found a fix for mine, finally. How do you quiet yours?

So, I’m such a perfectionist that my “Inner Editor” is a Cerberus in how backed into a corner I feel if I let it off the leash. I tried so many ways to placate that annoying voice (one attempt was to try to know what to write next, and one of my reasons for trying Dramatica out). None really worked, but I finally found one last night.

For me, it’s a modified version of intentionally writing something so bone-chillingly wrong that the beast gives up. For me, it’s creating a random story form in Dramatica (or Subtext), and filling out with the most stupid, and idiotic story I can come up with.

The funny thing about this: That stupid story actually makes some kind of crazy sense. I “blame” that on having Dramatica as the underlying spine.

Anyway, what do you do to quiet your Inner Editor when needing to be creative?


I commiserate with thee! I have not found a way to shut up my inner editor. So I just start writing words and tell myself…let me get a hundred of them and then you can fix whatever the heck you want. It’s painfully slow. I know you won’t believe me, but honest, yours is a sweet little puppers compared to my raging bitch. Say your prayers and thank your IE for being gentle with you, remind yourself that you could always have mine


Me too.

I’ve tried (and keep trying) different things over the years. Usually it’s some form of free writing.

Recently I’ve found James Scott Bell’s writing exercises to be somewhat helpful, and I’ve come up with some of my own.

I’d love to hear other ideas.


One of the effects my own inner critic has is that it’ll take me forever to finish a chapter. And then, even when I’ve finished it, there’s still something I’ll see that makes me rework it again.

So, what I do (or at least try to do!) is put the timer on and say, “OK, I only have an hour for this chapter. If the hour has passed, and it isn’t done, I’ll close it anyway and move on.” It seems to keep my inner critic on a short leash and only the really glaring sentences get reworked.

The only problem is that I often get interrupted and then forget to pause the timer. So, I really do have to remember to pause the timer, lol!


Often the thought of writing makes me sick and I procrastinate. Then writing sounds like a good idea, but I hit walls constantly, so I procrastinate since I don’t want to feel bad, and then I feel bad.

I finally got up from my desk, looked him in the face and started talking to him.

What do you want? I asked.
Why do you want that? I asked.

When he couldn’t give me a solid answer about why he wanted me to fail, I told him to wait in the other room. He showed up for a couple of days after that, just to see if I’d let him back in. I didn’t.

After this, I started answering every question with multiple answers. What is the Story Goal? To get Eric back on the team. To understand why Eric left the team. The find a logic behind the strange occurrences. So that’s three possibilities right there.

When I realized there was more than one path forward from where I was standing, I also knew there was nothing solid enough to criticize, so there was no point in even starting.

In essence, if you have one answer, then it had better effing work, and few ideas can withstand that kind of pressure. But if you have a bunch of answers, you can relax, because then you can slide around any obstacle.


I love this post, Lakis. Love this thread, Hunter! (Is that parataxis?)

The Inner Editor is essentially from the same family as the Inner Critic. Identical twins maybe?

One thing I’m doing lately to cope with writer’s block is creating my Id List: a constantly amassing list of material that specifically “turns me on”. My thinking is, the pleasure of writing about something that is hardwired deeply and personally into my psyche, my soul, will do wonders at keeping my attention off of my Inner Editor and Critic. Joanna Penn introduced this concept of the Id List to me in a recent Creative Penn podcast, describing her visit to this year’s Romance Writers of America conference at which Dr. Jennifer Barnes (a psychologist/ cognitive scientist/ YA romance author) presented a workshop on the subject. I believe Barnes has largely developed this concept and is writing a book on it. Another writer/blogger has written about here.
(I notice the game Minecraft has reference to an Id List, though I’m not familiar with the game and think this is something entirely different.)

Using this technique could provide the two-fold benefit of silencing one’s Inner Critics and imbuing your writing with your own distinct brand or flavor that’s linked to your true self. Who wouldn’t want that?

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Hey @Hunter thanks for this topic, it’s very near and dear to my heart too. So much so that I’m in the process of preparing a blog post detailing a bunch of techniques (10 so far) that I’ve used to conquer the inner editor.

For me, the first step in conquering the inner critic was learning Dramatica – studying it, applying it to my own stories, and working with Jim at Narrative First. Once I started to “get” Dramatica and could see how my ideas fit into complete argument stories (sometimes with a little tweaking), it gave me tremendous confidence that I could build the bones of a good story. At least at that level my inner critic is either quiet or helpful, fulfilling his role of calling out problems and inconsistencies without overstepping his bounds.

BUT when it came time to actually write a novel first draft, unfortunately, that confidence did not transfer. I’d feel in my heart my story was really good at the outline level, but that almost gave my inner editor more ammunition: “this scene sucks! it’s not good enough for this story!”

Enter the respected writer and writing teacher Holly Lisle. Most of the inner-editor-conquering techniques I use have come from her classes, forums, or podcast. Since I began her How To Think Sideways class 1.5 years ago I’ve written around 350,000 words of first draft material on a novel and several short stories.

I’ll put more detail in my blog post, but if anyone is interested in taking her How To Write a Novel class with me, I’m planning on starting it within the next month. But the class is only available for the next day or so – it’s currently still in development so she’s limiting enrolment (and the current price is significantly discounted because of that too). The “in development” phase is actually a significant bonus rather than a detriment, since the first wave of students gets to influence the content and development of the class, with lots of feedback from Holly herself.

Anyway, just an idea. I don’t mean this to be a pitch or anything, I’ve just found that Holly’s methods for working with your “muse” really complement an understanding of Dramatica. (Also, she doesn’t go into story structure much which is great because it means she doesn’t get anything wrong. She just makes vague but wise statements like “every story needs its own structure”.) And I’d love to see some Dramatica peeps over there. :slight_smile:


Hey Mike,

Thanks for the heads up! Unfortunately I’m not able to afford another class right now :frowning:

I meant to tell you that I heard your story on Holly’s podcast (cool!) and now I’m listening to that podcast, which is great. I’ve read a couple of her books now, which I think I first heard about on these forums.

I’ve been struggling hard with this over the last few days. Thanks to @jhull and Subtext I finally have a strong outline, but I’ve been really have problems moving forward with the draft. I’m still diagnosing the problem – I think it has something to do with trying to shoehorn pre-existing material into the draft, so I’m (once again) backing up a few thousand words in the hopes that I can make it all work.

I am interested in finding ways to make other tools work with Dramatica (as necessary). Holly is great at the “muse” stuff, and her approach reminds me a bit of Melanie’s Storyweaver stuff (I don’t own Storyweaver, but I’ve read a couple of Melanie’s books).

Another one I keep chewing over and may post another question on eventually is the possible relationship between the scene/sequel method and Dramatica’s approach to scenes. In short, I suspect that (as usual) Dramatica is more precise but Swain is more user-friendly. Anyway, more on that at some point.

Can’t wait to read these!


Oops, sorry @Lakis, I totally forgot about that draft blog post! I blame Christmas and of course my epic (read: stupidly long) novel draft that I’m still working on. Finally published it today.

@Hunter, thanks for the great topic. Sorry it took me so long to do a proper response.

Note that none of these have much to do with Dramatica. I’d say Dramatica helps a lot with the “coming up with and validating ideas” part of writing, all the way from the story to the scene level. But my inner editor usually leaves me alone during those stages anyway.


These are great Mike! Always good to reflect on this subject. Thanks for posting.