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It’s a Conundrum

By Ane Mulligan

In this world, there are problems and there are conundrums. They do differ. Problems are your ordinary, garden-variety bugaboos. A pro-blum or a pro-blem, depending on where you live. Either way, whether a hitch, snag, or quandary, they all differ from a conundrum.

co·nun·drum [kuhnuhn-druhm] noun

  1. a riddle, the answer to which involves a pun or play on words.
  2. anything that puzzles. A paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma.

And I have one. My conundrum, thus far unanswered, is how to silence an inner editor with tenacious tendencies. A conundrum because, well, I love the editing process. I enjoy the creative part well enough. I do! When the page is new and the story takes first form. Sometimes my characters even highjack the plot and take it directions I never imagined. That’s thrilling.

But for me, the magic happens in the editing. That’s when a simple description becomes a metaphor, a cliché with a new set of clothes, character traits wax allegorical. That’s where prose morphs from song to symphony.

And therein lies my problem. Getting that first draft down so I have something to edit.

I read a blog once, The Blood-Red Pencil, where Kim Person wrote a post, Voices in your Head, part II. In it she talks about “Aunt Irene,” who invades her home and mind.

Oy, I only wish Aunt Irene were the voice in my head. I could shut the door and ignore her. My office space may only be a small room of my house, but it’s a well-equipped one. Any pleas for food can be ignored—I keep a stash of chocolate and other snacks in my file cabinet. Right next to my desk. I don’t even have to get up. Coffee? Piffle. The Keurig sits on my side table.

No, Aunt Irene’s isn’t a voice I’d listen to.

Anyone remember Sergeant Vince Carter from the Gomer Pyle Show? “Move it! Move it! Move it!” You got it. That’s the one. His is the cantankerous voice of my inner editor, Sergeant Snark. Only instead of “move it,” he tells me “Edit! Edit! Edit! That stinks. Cliché! Change it! Lame! Boring!” No, scratch the boring. That’s what my cheeky critique partners tell me if I dare linger on a point too long.

I tried explaining to Sergeant Snark that I’m throwing up on the page. Vomiting the story down for a first draft. He gagged. Turns out undercooked sentences make him sick. In desperation, I decided to do the NaNoWriMo and set a goal for 50,000 words. I should have realized earplugs wouldn’t silence Snark. I didn’t make it to my goal, but those 9,342 words were lyrical.

In a final frenzied attempt to silence my inner editor, I borrowed a Beretta 9mm from Ronie Kendig. It helps to have friends who write military thrillers.

I laid it on my desk.

Right next to my laptop.

In plain sight—a bold move of intimidation.

Did it work, you ask? No.

Sergeant Snark picked it up and shot an adverb.

Which kind of blows a hole in that conundrum.

How do you silence an inner editor with tenacious tendencies? @AneMulligan #ACFWBlogs #pubtip #writing Click To Tweet

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall sweet tea. She’s a novelist, and playwright. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her husband and a rascally Rottweiler who demands play dates with a whippet. You can find Ane at her website, Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

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5 Responses to It’s a Conundrum

  1. Natalie Watkins says:

    Oh my goodness! Best post ever! Thank you so much, Ane! You nailed it. My favorite metaphor for the first draft is the one about shoveling sand into a box so you can build your sand castle during the editing. But I love yours too! I try to keep that in mind, but then I find myself picking up the thesaurus. :/

  2. Samantha says:

    Can so relate. *Sigh* I’ve tried changing my font to white, so the text is invisible on the page–my inner editor still berated my word choices. It knows. It always knows.

  3. You are such a hoot, Ane. Fun post!

  4. So clever! I loved it! A conundrum, indeed!

  5. Burton Voss says:

    Loved your column.
    I found out that Sergeant Snark double-times between your page and mine.
    Keep him busy at your place, please.

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