Friday, April 24, 2015

Editing is Like Dissecting a Cat

I’ve wanted to dissect a cat since eighth grade, and now I am finally realizing my dream. It’s like the climax of my academic career.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

via Buzzfeed

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

via Bloglovin'

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.

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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.)

via Mashable

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.

I’m not sure what to ask because I don’t know if anyone else has dissected a cat. What do you think is like editing?

18 comments :

  1. I freaked when I saw the title of this post on my dashboard! xD
    I love your GIF's, even the second to last one- lungs are amazing. And so is this post! I was laughing, but I related as well. I really enjoy dissection, of the animal and writing type :)

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    1. XD I thought I'd cut to the chase, so glad you enjoyed that.

      Lungs really are interesting, no? I tried to balance the serious with the not serious—but I have to agree. Dissection is awesome. :)

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  2. This is a strange combination of gross and awesome. I am definitely not into biology but I can appreciate the analogy. I'm impressed that you could draw the connection...and with how accurate it:P

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    1. *nods* You wouldn't think it to be so and yet here we are. I never expected it to be so accurate either, but I'm glad it was—I like combining my thoughts like that. :)

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  3. Your analogies are precious to my heart, Heather. This is so perfect and hilarious although I have this suspicion the main point was to put all the cat gifs in one post while not sounding like an old cat lady. XD XD

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    1. XD I take that as a high compliment. :) The cat GIFs were actually an afterthought, but I did want to have them be cute and stuff without making this post sound super morbid. That wouldn't be so good.

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  4. I'm not sure I feel well after reading the heading of the post and all the similarities between Dissecting and Editing. D:
    I'm sure you're a good writer and I believe you when you say editing is hard.But I couldn't pay attention to the editing part in this post.Dissecting thing kind of took all my attention >_<"
    You have to do it for school? I'm glad my curriculum didn't have any such stuff because I'm sure I'd puke or faint even before I began. >_<"

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    1. Sorry to make you sick! Dissecting has just become a very exciting part of school life that has made me pretty thrilled as of late. I didn't have to do it, necessarily; I elected to take the class because I've been waiting to dissect a cat since eighth grade!

      (We haven't had any pukers or fainters, though. It's not as bad as it sounds, trust me.)

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  5. Well this was very...original. *pukes into handy rubbish bin* Just kidding, I really like the comparison. (And I couldn't stop watching the fascinating cat lung GIF.) I've never dissected a cat, though I have dissected things like fish and frogs and lobster-wannabies, so I can get a bit of an idea. For instance, getting to the brain of a carp means shaving bits of the skull off, just like getting to the juicy stuff in your story means shaving away some of the grosser, tougher stuff. (Also, your GIFs were hilarious, especially the raccoon. That was a raccoon, right?)

    It's funny, I actually prefer working with secondary characters, and I struggle more to make my main character relatable and real. And I have no clue why. :/

    Thanks for sharing! :D

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    1. *pats on the back* Just take that one for the team, my friend. The lung GIF is crazy cool though, right? Our lungs aren't fresh, so I couldn't do the same, and I doubt my teacher would be crazy about me putting me mouth on something connected to the cat. I think the most interesting thing I've dissected was a squid, but fish, lobsters, and frogs sound cool! That's a spot on comparison, though: you do have to shave away that tough stuff to get to the juice.

      (...I swear that was a cat and suddenly it has become a tailless raccoon. o.O I THOUGHT IT WAS A CAT. Wow. Um, okay. Glad you enjoyed it? It broke my theme...)

      Well, you're talking to the queen of godmodding, so I have a very spotlighted perception of the characters around the main character—they're all in the shade. Perhaps we should exchange notes sometime. XD

      Thanks for reading!

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  6. Um, I probably should have been more disturbed by this than I was. BUT THIS IS SO COOL. I want to dissect a cat now.

    Anyway, I kind of love this whole comparison. Just as morbid as I like it.

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    1. Don't be disturbed. Be enamored. BECAUSE IT IS COOL. You should totally take as many dissecting opportunities as possible—it's cooler than people might realize.

      :) Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading, Aimee!

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  7. I DON'T WANT TO DISSECT A CAT. I HAVE NEVER WANTED TO. I'M A LITTLE DISTURBED. hhaha. But I also spent a weird amount of time watching these gifs, particularly the lung one. Ew. But interesting. But, okay, now I need to just go hide because....I never want to dissect a cat..
    xD

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    1. BUT IT'S FUN. YOU GET TO USE A SCALPEL AND A PROBE AND FORCEPS AND STUFF. Plus it's really cool to touch all the organs and check everything out. The lung GIF is interesting, isn't it? Cats are great.

      Have fun hiding from cat dissections! XD

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  8. This is gross, but hilarious, and very very true. We had to dissect a sheep heart for 5th grade science, I don't know if it's similar XD. Your analogies are amazing though.

    ~Noor
    a little bit of sunshine

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    1. Ooh, that's awesome! I think I've had some encounters with sheep's lungs in my time (although I can't imagine what I'd have to do to break through a rib cage like that! Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading!

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  9. Why would you want to dissect a cat?! Isn't that what frogs are for? Anyway, I'm kind of new to this whole editing thing because I was always one of those people that got lazy at the thought of redoing my written piece, but I like your breakdown of it in this post. :)

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    1. *shrugs* I don't know, I've never dissected a frog—but I would guess maybe because mammals and amphibians have different body structures and you're more likely to learn about human anatomy from a cat than you are a frog. Maybe. Plus, the cats are already dead. I hope you keep dissecting your WIP, and here's to the edits you will be making when you get to it! :)

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