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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Brain-Stanleys

No one knows what a Brain-Stanley looks like,
but this is probably pretty close

When freewriting, it's important to ignore the internal editor. However, the enforced word count on NaNoWriMo results in the writer-brain making some truly dumb decisions, all in the name of trying to squeeze a few more words into what you've actually written.

Some of the more obvious examples of this are things like always writing "Mr Ian Woon" instead of just "Ian", or not using contractions (e.g. always putting "I am" instead of "I'm"). Helpful for the initial word count, I guess, but really kinda useless in the long run.

But the writer-brain finds far dumber things to do - things that actually get in the way of freewriting. Take this for example:

She nodded for me to continue.

That's the line I was going to write. It's not amazing prose but it's perfectly acceptable, especially in a first draft. Anyway, it popped into my brain and my fingers obediently hammered at the keyboard. But as I typed the last word, a little piece of my brain woke up. For the sake of this explanation, let's call him Stanley. And remember, Brain-Stanley is a baddie in this story.

Stanley said, "Hey, if you type 'go on' instead of 'continue' then you get ONE EXTRA WORD."

The rest of my brain replied, "Oh come on, Stanley. Don't be a tit. What's the point of one extra word? Why can't I just put 'continue'?"

Stanley didn't care that the rest of the brain had just called him a tit. He stood there, with his tiny brain-hands on his tiny brain-hips, and said, "Because it's NaNoWriMo, you daft sod. We need all the words we can get."

There was a little bit of shouting, but Stanley won in the end. The line became:

She nodded for me to go on.

.... and I gained that one extra word.

So now I was a step closer to the end of my million words project. Hooray and hurrah?

No.

This is a worrying trend. If my internal-editor-dialogue ("ooh, we shouldn't write it THAT way; we should write it THIS way") is too loud, then creativity stops dead. The moment my various Brain-Stanleys wake up and start shouting editing suggestions, that's the moment I start struggling to freewrite. And all this 'second guessing myself' is what slows things down. It's hard enough to produce 2,000 words per day, let alone with a bunch of Brain-Stanleys shouting at me.

Dear Brain-Stanleys, I appreciate the occasional extra words, but they're really not worth the internal dialogue distraction. Shush for a few weeks, okay? Please? Pretty please with chocolate cherries?

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