Editing is more than cutting

Categories Scratched, Thoughts

I always resented the TV show, Sex and the City, because of the way Carrie, the narrator, wrote her columns. The narration of the show is supposed to be a recitation of her published column and, when the audience sees her actually doing her job, she’s usually lounging on her bed, typing things out and getting to wondering.

What we’re hearing are the words she is typing directly into her laptop and so, we are to assume she will send that off to her publisher and that is exactly how it will be printed.

But it won’t. It will be edited first. It will be improved by someone who has a better understanding of how it will fit into the whole work. It will be checked for tone and cut for size, bits of it will be rewritten, slashed or moved in a different order. If there is time, Carrie will have a chance to redraft the piece but let’s be serious about this: the sort of person who lazes around on a bed banging out a column is unlikely to be handing her piece in much before deadline. She probably asks for a lot of leeway on delivery, too.

Editing is so much more than cutting. I spend a lot of my time editing audio as well as writing. Earlier this year we produced an episode of Boxcutters, recorded over 6 hours and condensed into a little over 30 minutes over some 20 hours.

It is time-consuming and patience-testing work to take something that already exists and mould it into something so much better.

Editing is an important part of design. It’s the process a good art director will go through when hovering. It takes a level of empathy and understanding so deep into the work as to be almost invisible to the audience. To a large extent, the editor’s role is to make it seem like she was never there in the first place.

Every play in the editor’s book is about making the final work the best it can possibly be. Editing is about crafting a cohesive piece that has a point and doesn’t seem like someone threw it together it while lying on her bed between cocktails and shoe-shopping.

This post was originally published in the Floate Design Partners blog