In the Trenches: Editing in The Cutting Room

spiral film strip

In film making, the editing phase, there is a saying along the lines of “You think this is great, you should see what’s on the cutting room floor.”

In case you don’t get the reference, in editing a film in ‘ye olden days’ there was an actual reel of film and the editor would cut the useable scene from all the takes made during the filming and piece the movie together scene by scene, angle by angle, using cellophane tape. (Yeah, I just let everyone know I’m a dinosaur.)

In the process of creating the movie yards upon yards of film would “hit the cutting room floor.” The joke went that the best stuff filmed, invariably, got lost in all the dross covering the tiles.

What does all that have to do with querying? Directly, not much. But, indirectly a good bit.

I can hear all the eyes rolling from here. Yeah, yeah I’ll get on with it.

What I’m trying to say is that Book 2 of this series is in one of the early passes of editing. In this pass I make a lot of notes about inconsistencies, places where motivation isn’t well explained, or I used some helpful notation like (make this better) on my first time through.

And I write more. I cut, yes, but I also add all those little touches that make the story flow logically from point A to point B. You know, all that stuff that didn’t make it out of my head the first time – because of course this character would do that, and other things I took for granted as a given.

So in this pass I can usually see another 10% of growth. Usually this isn’t a big problem. But on Book 1 it did become a factor. Why? Because Book 1 in it’s -well this is as big as it should get state- was 139,000 words.


I couldn’t believe it. In high school I was the kid who wrote the briefest essays and reports. If the assignment was for 10 pages — I struggled to make 5.


I think it was because I wrote very tight prose. Where other students might hop off onto a superfluous branch, I clung to the central question and was usually rather ruthless in my analysis.

In college I perfected the one word professor evaluation. While not tremendously helpful perhaps, they were damn precise.

Do I still write tight prose? I have no idea. I think that question is too influenced by my mood and my topic.

Certainly, these rambles don’t qualify as terse.

So, what is all the windup for?

Well I discovered that Book 2 is clocking in at a hefty 170,000 words. That’s before the addition of another 17K for the 10%.

Uh, yeah. This could be a problem.

Fiction Updates need updating.

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