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5 Fast Ways to Stop Editing Yourself

Write a novel on an AlphaSmart.  Why not?

Q:  When I’m writing a novel, how do I stop myself from going back and fixing things?  As I write, I’m afraid to even look at the screen because I’ll hate what I wrote.  I keep my eyes focused on my desk instead, or on objects that I’ve collected in my writing space that are inspirational to my story.  When I watch what I’m typing, I write much cleaner sentences with less typos, but I feel like I’m never going to finish my novel.  This is hard, because I want to figure out how to become a writer and someday publish a book.  I feel like I’m not getting any closer to finishing my novel!

A:  Okay, it’s time for my #1 free writing tip: Don’t panic.  What you’re experiencing is normal for aspiring writers (and heck, published authors fall prey to it, too).  Your writer brain is trying to create and edit at the same time, and it’s choking you up.  You’re getting distracted by the words you’ve already written, rather than pushing forward toward the end of the scene.  But with some practice, you can break the habit.  Here’s my advice: whenever you find yourself bogged down while you’re writing, take a moment to notice where your eyes are going.  Are they on the sentence you just wrote?  Or are they going back to the beginning of the page?  If you’re getting tripped up by the temptation to go back and revise while you’re writing, here are a few simple tricks to beat that problem.

1)  Change your writing software.
Minimize your screen so that you can only see a few lines of text at a time.  A basic program like Notepad works great for this.  It narrows your focus to just the words in front of you, so you don’t get distracted.

2)  Get a word processor.
Switch to an old-fashioned word processor with a small screen, for the same reason.  You can find old battery-powered word processors all over eBay.  I’ve written on an AlphaSmart for over a decade, and I love it.  I highly recommend the AlphaSmart Neo.

3)  Write your novel longhand.  
The act of putting down one word after another, in ink, forces you to keep moving forward toward the end of a scene.  Plus, you get to shop for cool pens and call it “working.”  My favorite: a Fisher Space Pen.  Write anywhere, anytime, even in zero-gee.  Why not?

4)  Write your book on a typewriter.  

Yes, a typewriter.  True writerly geekiness is as close as your neighborhood thrift shop.  Like writing longhand, a typewriter prevents you from going back and re-working the words you’ve already written.  It’s also faster, albeit noisier, than a pen.  Finding ribbons can be a bit of a hassle, but typing just has that certain je ne sais quoi that makes you feel like a Writer with a capital W.

5)  Make time to write.
Set a kitchen timer for five minutes (or 10, or even 20) and force yourself to keep writing, nonstop, for the entire time.  You’ll break through those nitpicking tendencies, find your groove and start pumping out the manuscript pages.

No matter what you do, the goal is to get something, anything, written.  You can always go back and edit it later.  Keep trying different writing methods until you find what works best for you.  Remember, the only “right” way to do it is the way that gets it written! 


  1. Unknown

    Hmmm…I am an aspiring writer myself. My problem is similar, but not exactly the same. I find that I spend a great deal of time straining after the perfect words. In addition, I want to say the appropriate thing-I don't want to misrepresent an idea merely for the sake of saying something, or 'getting it down'. This is distressing, because it creates the following paradox: I was a better writer when I didn't care about waht I wrote. I wrote a book about flying dogs in one night-with every page illustrated! Now, a page a night is unprecedented. Number 5 sounds excellent, though. I'm going to try that. I'd welcome a rapport with a fellow writer, so feel free to shout me at

  2. Laurence MacNaughton

    Glad you enjoyed the tips! Everyone's writing methods are unique, but sometimes trying a new method can help spark your creativity. Good luck with the timed exercise and let me know how it works out.

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