Using a Time Machine to Edit and Revise

Writing is like running through an urban labyrinth during an alien attack and an apocalyptic storm.  You dive right into one alley and slide left into another.  Cars fly at you, fire hydrants explode, kittens need rescuing, and then the asphalt cracks open, a building falls, and a semi comes screaming toward you — from ABOVE.


Who could possibly deal with all of that without getting squished?  Stop, stop, stop it all.  Hang on a second.  Alien fighter-pilot, take five.  Hurricane, go see hair and makeup.  Hydrant, you don’t even explode, that’s a movie myth. Crank the semi back into the air.

Seriously, hydrant, get it together.

You experience your story without being bound by time. Stop time. Fast forward. Go back.

This is where your editing process is the most helpful.  It’s your own personal time machine.  Do everything you want to do.  Write every scene that you’re really excited to see happen.  Some of them will work, and some of them won’t.  Maybe the falling semi was too much?  Cut the whole thing.  Or, go back eight chapters and throw in the genesis of another hero to handle that problem.

There are some techniques that say you need to have the ending in mind, but don’t do it at the expense of your creative drive.  Whether it’s a whodunit mystery or political intrigue, you can always go back and plant the setups you need.  You can always go back to fix it.

If I were ever commissioned to write a James Bond script, I’d do the Q scene last.  How else would I know what he needs on his adventure?

“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits eighty-eight miles an hour, you’re going to see some serious shit.”
–  Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, Back to the Future


“The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.”
– Arthur Miller


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