Here's a new one for ya:
*****LISTEN TO YOUR GUT*****
I know. So original, right?
But, seriously, meditate on this for a while.
You see, it's my sincere belief that every writer has an inner editor, located roughly between the navel and the pancreas. So, basically, in your gut. An editor in your gut = a "gutitor."
Terrible puns aside, I am speaking to all those writers who dread the revision process. Who approach the second draft with a sense of doom. Who would rather let well-intended but truly inept beta readers decide a manuscript's worth for them. People like, um, well, ME.
I have this little voice, who, whenever I approach my first round of revisions, hisses, like a cockroach, "But how can you possibly evaluate your own work honestly?" And I listen. Every darn time. I am certain that since I wrote the miserable rag of a story, I'm the last person who's qualified to read it with an objective, fresh perspective.
You see, every writer worth even a drop of ink comes fully equipped with this awesome weapon (located between aforementioned navel and pancreas): the READER. Every writer is also a reader. Agree? (Say yes or henceforth stop following my blog, because you are a LIAR.) But seriously: we writers love to read. That's probably why we're writing in the first place. (Unless you're writing a memoir for money. Like Barack Obama. Or Sarah Palin. Or Casey Anthony.)
So when you finally face that big, scary, hairy monster called Self-Evaluation, you aren't entirely defenseless. You are armed with your inner editor who is--here's the big reveal, folks--nothing more than your inner reader.
Just read, doggonit. (note: wait two, three, four weeks or more before doing so. Absence makes the mind forget. Wait a while. Read other books. Write other books. Then come back to that old love cold and cruel and heartless.) Read the book. Read it like it's someone else's book. And your inner editor will lift his sleepy head, yawn, blink, and get to work.
As you read--now this is very important, don't miss this--wait for the TWINGES. Yes. The twinges. Those little jerks located, as you no doubt have guessed, between the navel and pancreas. You never know when they'll hit. I'll tell you what they are: they are the scratching of your inner editor's red pen. You read a sentence. You feel a twinge. You circle the sentence. You move on. Maybe for you it isn't twinges. Maybe it's cringes, the wrinkling around the eyes and the tightening of the lips. I get both, and when I get both at the same time, I know then and there whatever I just read has GOTTA GO.
These physical reactions to your writing are spontaneous, honest, often surprising, and surprisingly reliable. They tell you when a certain turn of phrase is weak, or when an analogy is just not working, or when a quote is flat, forced, or unjustified. They tell you when a scene is crap. Heck, when the entire last fifty pages are crap. Hey, I been there.
The swell thing is, you really DON'T have to sit and agonize or obsess over every little piece of your work. Don't overthink it. Overthinking it leads to forced and stilted writing. Let it be organic. Let it be spontaneous. Let the red ink flow; don't shake the pen until it spills crimson all over the manuscript and all over you.
Those small physical clues are your secret weapon to some truly great revision work. They are the response of your inner reader/editor on top of your own inner writer's instincts--a truly winning combination. The trick is to recognize them when they happen, to trust them when they do, and to understand why they happen when they do.
Try it. Just once. I dare you. Listen to your inner editor. Wait for those navel-pancreatic twinges. See what happens. Don't force it; wait for it.