Speaking of the Editing Process …

I was reading some fluff science fiction over the weekend. There’s one scene where the heroes are escaping the police, and an investigator is poking into a trap door that leads to a rather dangerous watery environment. The author vividly describes a crocodile clamping on to the woman’s head, pulling her into the water. Unfortunately, the author describes her as screaming. Two problems, and I’m sure you see them. How does a woman scream when her head is gripped by a predator? How can you scream underwater? It would be easy enough to describe her thrashing, being dragged to her death.

I almost finished the book–it was otherwise fast-paced and poked my curiosity. But I was deeply dismayed that a respected female physician–one of the two lead characters–would help a murderer (the other lead) get away from the authorities. Totally unbelievable. At least the guy could have been given some pheromone to overpower a woman’s resistance. But in the chapter before he meets her, he declines the treatment.

Liam’s comments on good editing in the thread below are golden. Maybe it’s why songwriting teams seem to have more success than soloists. Do you know the story behind the Beatles’ song that begins:

Well, she was just seventeen, and you know what I mean.

Paul McCartney’s original line was

Well, she was just seventeen, just like a beauty queen

John Lennon added the sneer “you know what I mean;” the songwriters were already telling you “the way she looked was way beyond compare.” What John’s line did, in addition to introducing a naughty hint, was to invite the listener in who knows what it feels like when your heart goes “boom.”

Anyway, early Beatles and puff science fiction are not rocket science. But they illustrate the value of good editing. Good teamwork is much more satisfying to me than going it alone and wondering how to take the “nice work” comments and sifting through them for the real truth.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Commentary, science fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Speaking of the Editing Process …

  1. Liam says:


    The Internet can be a good, if not great, medium for getting critical input, at least the initial stages of editing. But the best editing comes from establishing a relationship where the editor gets an intuitive sense of the author’s character, persona and intentions and seeks to bring out the best in them, despite the best efforts of the author to stay in his or her own way.

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