The Internal Editor: My mother might read this!
When I first started writing, I wrote for me. I told the stories I wanted to tell, the way I wanted to tell them. I knew nothing about how to frame a story with three act structure, the hero’s journey, or character arcs. I was free to pour out what was in my heart through my pen— yes, when I started, I wrote my books out longhand!— and I never gave my audience a second thought. Because I was my audience. No way would I let anyone else read such personal stories, the words so near and dear to me.
But after a few books, I set my sights on getting published. With that decision, everything changed. Editors and agents would now read my words. I needed to be careful how I told my story. Was my work good enough to compete in the tough world of publishing? I took writing classes, joined a writers’ organization, found a critique group. Soon the critiques, the suggestions for change, and —woe!— the rejections started coming in. I was given writing rules, formatting guidelines and technique instruction that overwhelmed me. I second-guessed myself, scrutinized every word choice and plot twist. I was a slave to the internal editor.
As I read more books in the market I was targeting, romantic suspense and contemporary romance, I realized that most of the books that were selling contained love scenes. I had no problem reading the love scenes. They were a natural progression of the romance, integral to upping the tension and progressing the plot. Likewise, I’d had no problem writing steamy love scenes in my earliest attempts at novel writing, but somehow, knowing strangers would read my love scenes, knowing my mother might read my love scenes, had me breaking into a cold sweat.
My love scenes, usually just one or two per book, are not erotica, but I’ve been known to get pretty steamy. I’ve gone back to earlier books, revising them for submission, and been surprised how hot and detailed some of my pre-publication love scenes got. Too many times I found myself deleting whole pages of sexy material, embarrassed to have such explicit language seen by friends and family. Warning bells and sirens screeched when I’d use sexually graphic language or I gave too much page space to a love scene. My internal editor was working overtime, and I soon realized my work was suffering because of it.
If I didn’t squirm in my seat and fan myself when I wrote my love scenes, neither would my readers. Censoring myself was cramping my creativity in all aspects of my story. Writing wasn’t fun anymore, the way it had been when I started…when I was free with my words. I had to turn the internal editor off and trust my gut instincts as I told my story. I had to give the characters free rein in the love scenes and quiet the little voice in my head that sounded a lot like my mother gasping in shock. Making this decision to write from the heart as I did in the beginning, incorporating all I’ve learned and which has become second nature to me now, I put myself back on track and my writing career took off.
Does this mean I don’t get edgy when my mom, who helps me proofread most of my work before it is published, finds typos in my loves scenes and reads explicit lines aloud to me to point out the errors? No…those moments still give me the heebee geebees— high squicky factor there. Did my heart skip a nervous beat when my new associate minister told me he’d like to read one of my books? It did.
But will I go back to editing myself in order to avoid awkward moments like these. No chance. I’ve learned to be true to the characters, to my readers…and to myself. I love my job, and do my best work when I’m not second-guessing myself.
In my latest release, TRUST IN ME, a contemporary romance that I call my ‘Cinderfella’ book, I enjoyed teasing the hero with the promise of sex and making him wait. But I made it up to him, and the heroine even found a creative use for chocolate cream pie, to boot!
You don’t have to wait, because TRUST IN ME is free, yes free, on Kindle May 3- 7! Want another free book? Visit my website, then come back here to leave a comment here telling me which book from my backlist you’d like to win. On May 8th, I’ll draw one comment at random and the winner will receive the book they chose! (Sorry U.S. winners only for paper books. International winners can choose one of my ebooks.)
Blurb: Escaping the cheating fiancé and sheltered life her father has arranged for her, Claire Albritton wants nothing more than to take control of her life and learn to fight her own battles. Kevin Fuller believes he must rescue damsels in distress and Claire is decidedly out of her element in small town South Carolina. When trouble inevitably finds Claire, Kevin’s white knight protection and heroics are exactly what Claire doesn’t want. But his kisses…that’s another matter.
Award winning author Beth Cornelison received her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from the University of Georgia. After working in public relations for about a year, she moved with her husband to Louisiana, where she decided to pursue her love of writing fiction.
Since that time, she has won numerous honors for her work including a nomination for the Romance Writers of America’s Rita Award. She made her first sale to Silhouette Intimate Moments in June 2004 and has gone on to sell many more books to Harlequin/ Silhouette. She has also published with Five Star Expressions, Samhain Publishing, and Sourcebooks.
Beth has presented workshops across the country to numerous chapter meetings, conferences, online classes and book clubs. Beth Cornelison lives in Louisiana with her husband, one son and a fluctuating number of cats who think they are people.