Wednesday, December 22, 2010

24 WOW Wednesday: Angela Ackerman on Honing Intuition

Today's guest post is by Angela Ackerman, who lives in Calgary, Alberta, just a short drive from the Canadian Rockies. A writer of Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult, her work has appeared in Spider Magazine, Wee Ones Magazine and several local city newsletters. When she isn't plotting about pirates, zombies or monsters made of cereal, she enjoys photography and taking in the natural beauty of Alberta with her family. She belongs to several writing groups, moderates for The Critique Circle, an online critique community and co-owns one of our favorite writer's blogs, The Bookshelf Muse. She's represented by The Herman Agency.

Developing Your Writer’s Intuition

by Angela Ackerman

We all know what an Internal Editor is. That's the part of ourselves that analyzes as we write, adding nice commentary like, "You're writing that...seriously?" or "Yeesh, cliché much?" When he really gets going, he might fall back and howl with laughter, citing our purple prose, our melodramatic characters, our flaccid plotting abilities. On bad days, he simply chants, "Hack! Hack! Hack!"

And yet, we continue to write. Sure, we eat a bit too much chocolate, drink too much coffee and may even develop a habit of grinding our teeth. But we shake off the taunts and keep going. Why?

Because of our writer's intuition.

This is the part of us that knows the story is there. It believes in us, and knows this story is ours--only WE can tell it properly. Our Writer's Intuition is a tiny cord of strength and determination that keeps our fingers on the keyboard, and if we nurture it, it will become our most powerful tool as writers.

Writer's intuition is what the Internal Editor wants to be. If you strip away the insecurity of the IE, add a dash of patience, well, we have somebody that's really trying to help us. Face it, once we've drafted and we're ready to revise, we need to know when we've slipped into a clichéd description, gone on a purple tear, or need to juice up the plot with paddles from a crash cart.

So how do we develop our Writer's intuition and use it to transform the Internal Editor from Foe to Friend?

1) Mute the Internal Editor during drafting. That is one place where you should never, ever let IE nag. Drafting is pure creation, so give yourself over to it. You should have free rein to transcribe the essence of the story in your mind without worrying if the writing is pure brilliance or not. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and just WRITE.

2) Take the time to learn the craft. Books on writing can give you a huge leg up. Blog posts are bite-sized gems filled with advice. Join writer's groups, get involved in discussions, try a workshop or conference. The more you know, the more you will trust your Writer's Intuition. The resulting confidence puts YOU back in charge, not the IE.

3) Give freely to others. There is no better way to learn how to revise than by critiquing other writers. There is a freedom in it, an ability to be objective because the writing is not ours. We learn to recognize what works and what doesn't, and these lessons stay with us when we do turn back to our own work.

4) LISTEN to your intuition, even when you don't want to. You know, like when a niggling worry hits that there's a problem with a scene or character but you hope that the Agent or Editor will find the rest so dazzling they'll forget about it? Yeah, THAT. We all feel the temptation to hit send rather than slave some more. Don't give into it. Trust your intuition and if you think there's a problem, get some fresh eyes and opinions. You only get one chance to impress, so send out your best.

5) Always open yourself to learning more. None of us are experts, not even the most successful of authors. We always can become stronger writers. Feed that passion to learn and grow, and your writer's intuition will grow with you!


  1. Yah! Love Angela and The Bookshelf Muse. Some great advice, and yes, critiquing others' work does help to find weaknesses in your own writing.

  2. Excellent advice!! I love Angela and The Bookshelf Muse! Awesome post :)

  3. Thanks Angela and Martina and Marissa! Great post. I think I'll go beta read now. :)

  4. #4 is so true! I have having comments show up that point to issues I was already semi-conscious of. Need to get better at reading the signs...

  5. Excellent post, Angela! Like the highlighted bits, they make the point rememberable (is that a word?).


  6. Great post. Muting that internal editor is forever my problem. It took me nearly 100 pages in my current WIP to finally ignore it.

  7. Thanks to Marissa & Martina for having me here! I love this topic. The writer's intuition ties into our ability to push through so much as writers and get the job done. I feel developing it is what really leads to 'knowing deep down' that we can and will achieve success if we stay on course.

    Hugs all round!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  8. Great post, Angela!

    I've just typed THE END on my new wip and plan to spend the next couple of weeks reviewing my favorite books and blog posts on writing fiction (including a few here). ;)

  9. Great post! I am thrilled to see a writer from Alberta!

    And your post hits the nail on the head. That's what I am currently struggling with in writing my draft, the dreaded internal editor telling me all my writing is terrible!

  10. Great post, Angela. It's such a fine line, knowing when to listen to your editor and when to tell her to grow up. Thanks for sharing your insight!

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  11. Angela, you rock! Thanks for this awesome post. I just finished a first read through, and I was so glad I didn't listen to my IE while writing the first draft. Sure, there's a lot of work to be done, but I'm so glad I wrote it the way I wanted.

    Merry Christmas to you, AND to Martina and Marissa!

  12. Great stuff! I have had to remind myself to turn off that internal editor lately, because I'm already thinking of the end result, and all the polishing I need to do, and I CAN'T do that in a rough draft. Stop it, Stop it, Stop it!

    And yeaaah, things that niggle at me and I pass over, I end up having to fix them later. Duh. ;o)

  13. Damn, awesome site. I came across this on Ask Jeeves, and I am really happy that I did. I will definately be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the post and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment.

  14. Do you have any books on writing that you would recommend? I'm looking for books that are beyond grammar and punctuations, books that are more into craft and techniques, books that help to turn a good sentence into a great sentence. Thank you.

  15. Johnny, I know this is terribly late, but in case you're subscribed to the comments, I would suggest Description by Monica Wood, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, and DEFINITELY Self Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne & King). All these books are top notch and really helped my writing. :)


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  19. Great article! Number 1 is so very true - I'm honing that right now - to just chill and write freely instead of procrastinating too much. A lot of detailed thought about plot goes a long way here ;)

  20. Great article! Number 1 is so very true - I'm honing that right now - to just chill and write freely instead of procrastinating too much. A lot of detailed thought about plot goes a long way here ;)

  21. Great article! Thanks for all the tips.

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