The art of the edit

This one is really fun to see, at least for me.  For most Star Wars fans, there’s a huge question.  The original trilogy of Star Wars films are classics.  Yes, the third one has lots of rough parts in it, but it’s still an enjoyable movie overall.  But the prequels are a disaster.

I’ve read the original version of the script that George Lucas wrote.  You should read it.  It’s very similar to reading screenplays by Dan Akroyd.  Dan has some good scripts to his name, but he’d hand them in as a gigantic phone book full of ideas, but absolutely no focus.  The Blues Brother’s script, for example, was a whopping 324 pages.    To give you an idea, each page of a screenplay is considered one minute of screen time.  So it was originally a five and a half hour film.

In the original Star Wars, Paul Hirsch describes this overwhelming bombardment of information in the original pitch and screenplay.  The key difference is that after telling George the thing was a mess, his wife and friends all pitched in together to make Star Wars, Episode VII the beloved classic that it is.

Expectedly, this same problem plagued the prequels.  But there’s a telling difference.

That difference is in the prequels, no one seems to want to stand up to George Lucas and say, “Fix it.”  Even though they all note that it’s a bloated mess, George calls it “stylistic” and they seem to accept it.  The end result is that while the prequels were massive box office successes, no one denies that this is mostly due to hype rather than substance.

So there’s a few lessons.  One, the difference between a great story and one nobody cares about can often be the editing. You might have a great story that’s buried behind too much junk.  If you read this blog, you’ll find that’s often a gripe I have about some of the novels:  Placement of scenes, exposition, introduction to characters.

Also, if you are planning on writing a series, make sure you keep a detailed list of what’s going on.  You won’t remember everything going on in your own story, but fans will.  If you’re a fan and see something out of place, shoot the author a DM or an email, it’s easy to correct that in ebooks.

Just make sure you are doing it for minor edits, telling an author how to write a book is pretentious.  For that, I recommend Damon Wayans stand-up on random people pitching movies to him.  (6:27)

Two, if you can find someone worth listening to who will give you an honest opinion, that person is invaluable.  While a bunch of yes-men might seem satisfying at first, you end up making the prequels.  No one wants to be make the prequels.  Just look at what it did to the poor kid who played Anakin.

Now, this might just be a time to go over how an awesome editor can make all the difference, or the importance of earnest feedback.  But really, it’s one of the things that has me in awe of the indie publishing scene.  These people are cranking out anywhere from 4 – 6 books a year, and still making them high quality.  I can’t do that.  All of my best work is the result of serious editing, anything that I write initially is indistinguishable from incomprehensible ranting.

  • Insert comment from reader who tells me that this is incomprehensible ranting.

So here’s to you, independent authors, and your ability to produce fine work while under immense pressure, a day job, all while doing all of your own promotion and marketing.

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