My dh and ds1 have just borrowed a Lord of the Rings unedited DVD from the library. They wanted to watch all the parts which were later deleted. They'd expected to find a number of extra scenes that hadn't made it to the movie. But there were, in fact, very few extra scenes. Instead, the scenes which were already in the movie had bits trimmed off them. Andrew said that the bits that had been cut out were as excellent as the rest of the movie. But they didn't necessarily carry the plot forward. So while the scenery, characterisation and effects in them were fantastic, they didn't "add" anything to the story but just reinforced what was already there.
I mentioned that in this regard, film editing seems very much like book editing. I ought to know. One of my tasks just recently has been to tackle some of the editing from my recently completed M/S. Even though I posted it to the editor feeling quite satisfied, I'm always amazed by how many snips and trims can be made without sacrificing any story line. Sometimes it's just a sentence here and there, a few "How are yous?" or "thank you very muches." Other times, I've managed to delete entire paragraphs, because I've studied them and thought, "Readers will be able to work this out in their own heads without being spoonfed," or "This is just repeating what I said in the last page, with different words." So far I've managed to shorten the whole thing by 50 or 60 pages just by getting rid of the unnecessary little extras. I've grown to quite enjoy this process.
Early in my writing days, I used to hate it because I thought, "That's goodbye to hours of hard work." And I've had other people tell me that this is the way they feel. But I've come to see for myself that, paradoxically, taking parts away really does add to the story's quality. It tightens the whole thing and just keeps it running so much more smoothly. A bit like pruning rose bushes or grape vines, I think. All that foliage appears green and healthy, but it gives flowers and fruit so much more opportunity to flourish when it goes.
I think everyone needs to do this type of editing, whether you're Shakespeare or a school student. The human brains seems to be constructed so we're naturally a bit too wordy and verbose in the first drafts. That's a good thing because it means that everything we want to get across is in there, and we just need to trim away the extra bits to make it shine. As blog writers I think we all probably go back over each post and do this process automatically. It's just as much a part of writing as typing or scribbling the words in the first place.
(As for what I get back from the editor, the bits that she says need to be cut out disturb me far less than the bits she says need to be embellished or expanded with more words, but more on that another day.)