According to the Department of Translation, from the Universite' de Geneve, the definition of PRE-EDITING IS...
Pre-editing consists in processing the texts before machine translation. It typically involves correcting mistakes in the source text (mainly grammar, punctuation and spelling), removing ambiguities and simplifying structures. For statistical MT, it may also involve adapting the text in such a way that the input text is a closer match to the texts the engine has been trained with, which can help the MT engine perform better.
Now, while this deals with the concept of translating material from one language to the next, I think we can utilize this same concept of PRE-EDITING in the publishing world.
My definition is.
OK, so I know I have most of you out there screaming that this is nothing more than the whole pantster vs. plotter argument. Sorry, but this is not that. This is a method of simply taking the time to think through the potential elements that may come into conflict as you write.
|Walt Disney in a Pre-Editing (planning) Session|
Before you begin any writing project, it is crucial to take the time to fully think about your characters; their goals, motivations and conflicts; and the over-all storyline you are thinking about. All of these elements have to work together.
What I see with many authors, is that individual elements work great as long as those elements remain as an individual. Putting those ideas together creates issues.
Let me give you an example of this thinking, outside of publishing. My mother-in-law loved going to those "Street of Dreams" open houses. These are the one's where the designer let their minds wander and create homes that are to die for. She also loved visiting other people's homes and seeing what they have done. But here is where the problems would start happening. She would re-decorate the living room, but then realize that the dining room did not match. So she would re-do that room with new furniture, but then the furniture did not match the living room. So she would change the furniture and then the paint or the carpeting did not match. Changing those elements now had a trickle down effect to the hallway and the bedrooms... which would... you get the idea.
Although she was a fantastic person, pre-editing was not a strong element in her character.
One common story arc in romance is that of the two people that seem polar opposites getting together. This indeed makes for a great story, but it requires that pre-editing to make sure that there are things that are hidden away in each of the characters, things that only the writer knows, that makes these two compatible. If you don't take the time to plan these out before starting, you will end up having to likely insert "stuff" in the middle of the plot just to take care of the issue.
You may end up with multiple scenarios that could happen. That's fine. At least you have thought though those ideas BEFORE. If you see the story heading into a direction of complete failure, you can re-adjust quickly before getting too far.
What about conflict? Again, there are some great conflict themes out there that you can use, but if that conflict becomes a situation that cannot be solved in the real-world, then you have a problem.
I have an author I am working with that is planning out her new story. We have a situation where we wanted to create a reason why these two characters might not be able to get together, and we wanted to connect it to a will. On the surface, the plan sounds like it might work, but to insure no problems happened once she got to that point in the story, it required researching some historical precedents that would have made that work. That research revealed several things: 1) every time we thought we had a solution, it required going back and re-framing the early part of the story; 2) we found legal solutions that did not work as a precedent but actually worked as a reverse argument; and finally 3) we found a better plot issue.
Pre-editing also allows a reader to examine the over-all plot and conflict in the story. What might seem like a complicated plot only turns out to be a complication that could have been fixed with a simple phone call. On the other end, what might seem like a straightforward plot, involves at least a three volume set of historical research just to get the writer out of the jam.
What this process does for a writer is to eliminate the massive "over-haul" that would be required to get the writer back on the right track. This is part of the reason why, as an agent, I like to work with an author through those earlier planning times and chapters. Trying to fix an issue that blows up in our fact during chapter 18 may require a reconstruction of all that writing in chapters 1-17. This is something no writer would want to do.
You can be a pantster all that you want. I am, in no way saying you need to outline to the page number exactly what is going to happen in the story. What I am saying is to think before you write. Consider all of those potential issues between your characters, conflicts, plots and so forth.
And then write.