Lately here in my house we’ve all been obsessively watching Mythbusters. We’ve seen just about every episode available on iTunes (in Australia anyway), and have started on the DVD’s to get any episodes we’ve missed (which is a lot).
There are so many things that make this series enjoyable. There is the camaraderie between the main hosts, Adam and Jamie, and the secondary hosts, Kari, Tory and Grant, there is the awesome mix of science and explosions, and there is the fun of learning new things.
But all of those things, while they would make a GOOD show, aren’t what make it a GREAT show. What turns it from a good show into a great show is the quality of the editing. I’m willing to bet that for every hour episode, there are many more hours of film that have to be gone through. Every explosion and experiment has several cameras from several angles, and filming runs all through the build-up of each myth. Some of this is no doubt scripted, the lead ins to the shows, the wrap ups, the science segments. Others, arguably the best parts, are obviously not. Adam holding his hand up to his face and saying “Am I missing an eyebrow?” When Tory, Kari and Grant rush back from an explosion that is bigger than they expected.
After these moments are caught on camera, someone has to go through them all and pick which parts will make it into the show, and which won’t. In some cases, such as Adam’s eyebrow, they capture a line that goes down in Mythbuster’s history. Capturing, and then recognising these moments, making sure they make the cut into the final show, and making sure that the experience for the viewer can’t be an easy job. But it’s that very job that makes the show so good.
Editing a book is somewhat similar. I don’t write with an outline or a formal plan. Sure, I have an idea of a scene before I sit down and write it for the most part, and I have a general plan of where I expect the story to go. But sometimes, it goes in the most unexpected directions. A character walks onto the stage that I hadn’t planned, but who is interesting enough for me to allow them their moment in the sun. Sometimes, these moments are gold, the character or scene turns out to be pivotal to the plot in ways I never could have imagined. Sometimes, between writing the original scene and moving on further in the story, I change direction, or even forget why I introduced them in the first place!
This is where editing becomes important. As I work on editing Reckless Rescue, I have had to scrap some scenes, write some from an entirely new POV because I’ve removed a POV character, and add in new scenes to follow plot points that I didn’t imagine in the first draft. I’m hoping that this will give my story polish. Hopefully it will turn it from a good story into a great story.
Does this level of editing mean I should have taken more time, planned more from the beginning, and saved all this effort? Not for me. I like following the turns and tangents of a free form first draft, discovering the story as it unfolds. And, though I know many people won’t understand this, I like the editing process. I love seeing the characters I have created and lived with for so long really develop during the editing process. I can delve deeper into their emotions and motivations, and I have a chance to be sure I’m really doing them justice, and hopefully ensuring that other’s love and understand them as much as I do.
How important do you think editing is? Do you like it or hate it?