Now, I’m not saying dissecting a cat is easy, because it isn’t, but it does give you a lot of time to think. Especially when you’re pulling bits of fat off the kidneys for half an hour. Your mind is pretty free. And while my mind was enjoying its freedom it realized—dissecting a cat is kind of like editing.
Allow me to explain.
1. It all USED to work.
The cat used to be alive, all the organs used to function. And everything made sense right before you took a break after writing the first draft. But now? The draft is dead, too.
2. It’s more work than you thought.
I didn’t know much about skinning the cat. Cutting through a fetal pig’s ribs is nothing compared to the struggle it is to get through a full-grown cat’s. And that first draft of The Novel? After a long, hard day of editing, you won’t know what hit you.
3. You never know what you’re going to find.
Two of the cats that were supposed to be pregnant are not pregnant. Another group found a B.B. gun pellet by their cat’s heart. And apparently in my WIP the prince character talks about cheese balls, which would be inaccurate for his time period.
4. You don’t know where anything is.
In cats, it’s because everything is covered in fat and tissue and pericardiums with thymus glands you didn’t realize you weren’t supposed to take off. In books, it’s because everything is all over the place and you’re supposed to put it all back together.
|via Socks on an Octopus|
5. It’s messy.
This goes without saying.
6. You aren’t sure what’s okay to take out and what isn’t.
On the one hand, this thing might just be really ugly pockets of fat. Or, maybe it’s the bladder. Hard to say. I’ll just leave it there and take out this other thing—oops. On that note, does this paragraph work here? Should I take out that character? Oh, but I love him. I’ll take out this other event instead—oops.
7. You’re reluctant to put anything back in.
There were these weird black-brown things on the lungs that weren’t the lungs (probably) and so I took them out and put them back in and then took them out again. Now they are thrown away. When you write, it’s also hard to decide what goes and what stays and what gets added, because what if it’s important, or what if it’s not?
8. You’ve got to make time.
I spent almost an hour after school doing extra dissection stuff because I didn’t clear all the fat out of the lower portion of my cat. Fat is the thing that really smells, so twice today I got the distinct desire to puke. Would I have rather been doing something else? Yeah. But it was important. Clearing out the painful details from a novel? Also worthy of nausea. But you’ve got to make time to do it, too.
9. It’s a good learning experience.
In a cat, we learn a little bit about anatomy in cats and even ourselves when we take apart the body and get a hands-on look at what makes us function. Did you know that nerves look like dental floss? They’re hard to break, but that is what a scalpel is for. In writing, we can learn a little more about our novel and our patterns, and what makes us function as writers. Did you know that I sometimes have trouble characterizing secondary characters? They sometimes slip under my radar, but that is what editing is for.
10. There’s blood everywhere.
Let’s not even pretend.
(It’s not liquid, by the way. It kind of looks like moonsand, and is just clumps of hematite-red cell bundles that kind of look like bacon bits.)
(Also, those are cat lungs, not really bloody things. Sorry if I made you throw up.)
11. We love to talk about it!
I love sharing what I got to see in my cat with anyone who will listen (that is, I would if anybody wanted to listen…). It is awesome getting to see a cat’s insides first-hand and marveling at the little organs that somehow made this cat alive once. Likewise, we writers love to share our projects with other people who are willing to listen and understand, and for most of us, it’s fun to compare that magical experience with others.
Keep dissecting, keep editing, and don’t think about fat, because it smells bad and gets your gloves and papers greasy and looks like little pork chops on a paper towel. It’s nasty.