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?