Monday, April 20, 2015

A Film is Made in the Editing Room. So is Your Novel...

I'm not one to talk a lot about the sausage-making of creative writing, preferring to leave that to the, well, sausage-makers. Lots of writers know what the rules are, and most writers aren't great storytellers, so one has to assume that there's a bit more to it than just working the rule book.

That said, a short while ago I commented on a LinkedIn article (The Hardest Revision, by Taylor Rees) and thought I'd share it with you here. It's an analogy that I've found useful in my own work, especially when it comes time to "kill your darlings."

It's been said that a film is made in the editing room, and it's been my experience that much the same can be said of writing. 

    A director will typically shoot 12 to 20 hours of film during the production of a two hour motion picture, possibly running as high as 200 hours of (digital) video shot for a two hour documentary feature. No director would seriously consider shooting two hours of film for a two hour feature and call it a day. 
    All of the various camera perspectives, the wide-angle vs close-up shots, the tinkering with exposure or lighting, and the multiple emotional interpretations of the same scene by the actors all get sorted out in the editing room. The 20 or so hours of raw film is cut down to the two hours that best tells the purest version of the story ("Director's Cuts" aside).

    The same applies to writing, especially to creative writing. Nobody buys a novel to revel in the genius of my unconventional stylistic quirks. They're not there for my breathtaking description of a sunset, for my emotional rendering of a tender moment, or for my powerhouse construction of an action scene. They're there for the story. Period. End of argument. Step down, next case.

    Anything and everything that doesn't serve the story should be considered fair game for the editor's pen. Like most writers (as reflected in the author's article), it took me a while to figure that out, to understand that my 20 hours of raw film needed to be boiled down to the two hour feature that I intended to create. 

The first draft manuscript is the block of marble; the statue appears only after the editing is done.
Enjoy the sausage.

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