Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Art of the Edit

In high school and college we were all assigned reports and given a minimum page count. "Turn in a paper of between 10 and 15 pages by the end of the semester" we were told.

The problem is that people still think longer is better and technology has only made this worse.

Last night at a local camera club meeting I watched a 14 minute electronic slide show of a trip to Sicily. Picture after picture flashed on the screen, many of them quite beautiful, but many more just repetitions of the previous shot. In all more than 300 images flashed on the screen, all to a musical soundtrack that just didn't make sense. Basically this person had just started using some great new technology but had no real storytelling skills.

Instead of asking "what story do I want to tell, what pictures will help tell that story and what kind of music can help me set the mood to tell it," she instead saw some neat technology and a way to slap a bunch of things together.

The problem isn't hers alone. I tons of emails from friends and family showing pictures of their kids in a linear format. There are many solutions to this problem, including Tabblo, which lets you create photo essays. But then you have to learn how to actually use the tool. Just slamming a bunch of pictures online won't do it.

But back to writing. So many young writers err by putting everything they know on the page. This regurgitation not only creates lousy writing, but it prevents key messages from coming across, they just get buried.

The main issue is time. The more time you have, the more you can edit. Look at each paragraph, does it move the story forward? Then do the same for each word, do you need them all? Can you say the same thing in fewer words?

And when you're done, maybe that 14 minute eternal slide show can become a robust 3 minutes that leave viewers longing for more.

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