Quirky Side-Effects of Editing

24 Jul

The editing process has officially seeped into every crack of my life.  Odd things keep catching my attention in day-to-day things like music and movies, sermons and conversations.  What makes this odd is that it’s not just the presence of things I’m noticing – it’s also their absence.

Weeks’ worth of work on my novel has made me start noticing the choices made by other people in their work.  No surprise, really – what is editing, if it’s not a constant series of choices?  

Editing presents seemingly limitless options: what to convey?  What’s the best way to show it – Action?  Dialogue?  Exposition?  Summary?  What do you leave out, so your focus shines?  

As I deal with these questions, I have begun to appreciate everything more.  While watching Harry Potter, I found myself analyzing the scenes, thinking, “What are they trying to accomplish here, and why did they choose to include that word/image?  How would I communicate this idea, if it was my choice?”  I noticed more details – Who decided they should sit on the floor while they talked, and why?  What changes were made to the soundtrack that made this entire film feel darker than the previous ones?  Things like that.    

Even on reality shows like Survivor, the editors’ choices make a big difference in our perception of the cast.  They take a load of film, sift through it, and choose a focus for each week’s episode.  There could probably be several different seasons made out of the same film, depending on who and what they choose to highlight.

Editing has even seeped into my thoughts while at church.  Last Sunday, it occurred to me that one of the songs might be more powerful if its lyrics touched on not only Jesus’ sacrifice of death on the cross, but the resurrection which completes it.  While I liked the song, a better edit might have conveyed a more complete message.  

Crafting my novel has made me so much more aware of these things.  I’m learning how not to settle for the mediocre, but dig in and try to make it the very best it can be.

Instead of taking things at face-value, I’ve started thinking more about the behind-the-scenes.  Of all the stories in the world, why did they choose this one, and what compelled them to tell it in this way?  I love being more observant, and I can feel my work sharpening because of it.  

In what ways has your work as a writer affected your everyday thought life?  Do you feel more critical of everyone’s work since you’re so used to finding ways to make your own work better?  Or, maybe, are you more appreciative of everyone’s work since you know how much time, thought, and effort went in to craft even the smallest things?  Maybe a little of both?

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6 Responses to “Quirky Side-Effects of Editing”

  1. Laura Best Friday / 24 July 09 at 7:49 pm #

    It’s funny because I sometimes find myself looking at life as though I were writing it.I’ve been that way all my life. Sometimes I am so immersed into my own imagination that I’m really not paying that close attention to real life. Often sentences pop into my head right out of the blue and it may not necessarily be something I’m working on. I like to jot down these sentences to see if they mean anything now or will later on.

    I know what you mean about being more observant and I think it does help to ask those questions about other writer’s work. The editing process really does set our minds working. But I guess that’s what it’s all about. Isn’t it?

    • owlandsparrow Monday / 27 July 09 at 10:49 am #

      That’s a fun way to gather ideas! Sometimes life feels like a movie to me (complete with a soundtrack…may have something to do with the fact that I was raised by a music teacher, and that sometimes I spontaneously break into song…). Sometimes people or places just jump out to the foreground and say USE ME! I’ve created several scenes based on observations such as these… :)

  2. jenniferneri Saturday / 25 July 09 at 8:20 pm #

    I am similar to Laura. A friend commented today that it must be my empathy that causes me to write. I think it is but one element.

    For many years I did not write for fear it would ruin reading for me. I did not want to analyze when reading, I wanted to read. Has it sharpened my eye? Absolutely. I do find myself critical at times, thinking that such and such could have been portrayed much more efficiently in this way. yet, I can also turn off, and just enjoy.

    • owlandsparrow Monday / 27 July 09 at 10:55 am #

      I feel like that, too, like I didn’t want my reading experiences ruined. I like having a sharper eye for things. Most of the time, it enhances my enjoyment of things. Only once or twice (so far) has it hindered my enjoyment of a book.

  3. Pat Bertram Sunday / 26 July 09 at 1:35 am #

    Editing, even more than writing, does change the way an author looks at things. Like you, I tend to watch how movies are put together, how the background affects the scene, listen to the dialogue and then, after all that, I watch the movie.

    As for reading, I find I am much more critical of books by popular authors,but their unenjoyable books are why I began writing in the first place — I wanted to write the kind of books I could no longer find in the stores. On the other hand, I am not quite so picky when it comes to independent writers, and so enjoy those books more.

    • owlandsparrow Monday / 27 July 09 at 11:02 am #

      Thanks for the comment, Pat :) I’m sometimes a little reluctant to getting into the hyped-up and popular stuff of the moment. I don’t know that I’m necessarily more critical of the writing itself, but I feel cautious about the whole thing – like, is it actually good, or are people just crazy obsessed for no reason? Lots of times, I find that there’s a worthy reason everyone’s excited about it. Others, not so much. I do find myself holding tried and true authors to a higher standard, though, especially if I’ve loved several books they’ve written in the past. It’s disappointing when your favorite author comes out with something you feel was less polished.

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