What “Toy Story” Can Teach Us about Editing

Posted on July 30, 2014


imagesRegardless of your age, if you live in the United States, you’ve probably seen the movie Toy Story. Even if you’re not a big movie fan and haven’t actually viewed the movie yourself (and if this is the case, you should definitely take the time to watch it!), you are undoubtedly familiar with characters like Woody and Buzz Lightyear. And you should be, because not only was Toy Story the first feature film of the enormously popular, family-friendly Pixar Studios, but also it was the first ever feature film to be entirely animated by a computer. This means that before Toy Story opened in the November of 1995, computer-animated films existed only as film shorts, and with Toy Story, Pixar paved the way to the production of animated feature films, which—as you know—are today only growing in popularity.

So what does this have to do with editing? Well, even if you are familiar with the above story, chances are you are less familiar with the multiple stages the film went through before it became a family classic. Did you think that the guys at Pixar just sat down one day and produced a polished film masterpiece? Nope. Toy Story’s script went through a number of edits and revisions before becoming what it is today. For example, how do you think Toy Story would have turned out if Woody had been a ventriloquist dummy (not to mention a jerk) and Buzz had been a GI-Joe? It would have been a very different movie and might not have struck the chord with audiences that made the finished product so famous and well-received. All the same, these differences and more were a part of some of the earlier film drafts, and it was only through the processing of editing that Pixar came up with the Toy Story we know and love today.

Is editing just for famous people or film studios like Pixar? Of course not. Nor is it only for great novelists like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, or for the aspiring authors of plays, textbooks, biographies or academic journals. Of course, if you are working on any of these materials, then you certainly should have an editor, but even if you are only writing for a newspaper or blog, you should still have an editor. Why? Because if you are writing something that you want to publish for others to read, you need a trained professional to look over your work in order to enable you to produce your finest possible product. If you are writing a personal note or diary entry, then it is probably safe to say that you don’t need the help of an editor. If you are writing a paper for a college class, your teacher or professor (and, in the case of workshop classes, your peers) will provide editorial comments and feedback. However, if your goal is to reach a broader audience, you will probably need to seek out the services of an expert.

What does an editor actually do, anyway? As you can see with the Toy Story example, the main job of an editor is to rework, reorganize, and/or modify your writing content.  An editor may also proofread your work to some extent, but his or her main job is to make changes that ensure your writing is clear, consistent, and polished. (For a more complete list of the different types and functions of editors, click here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kudler/book-editing_b_2990583.html and scroll down to “Myth #3”). Unfortunately, this process probably scares a lot of writers, especially ones who become attached to specific features of their work(s).

For example, when I was in fifth grade, everyone in my class had to write a story for a young authors’ competition. Although I’m sure my story would now seem clunky (if not altogether silly), I was very proud of it, since it was something that I—and only I—produced. So you can imagine my mortification when I found out that, before sending my story in for the competition, my teacher had made some editorial changes to it. As an eleven-year-old kid, I was traumatized at the thought of someone else touching my writing, but I now realize how naïve this thinking was. My teacher was not trying to recreate what I had already written, but to improve the quality of my content. You may not like or agree with everything that your editor suggests, but you should realize that your editor only wants to help you and that everything he or she suggests is meant to benefit your writing. And indeed, if we look back at Toy Story, I think we would all agree that the final version of Toy Story seems much better than the earlier drafts.

Even if you are convinced that you need someone to edit your work, you may be wondering: How and where can you obtain an editor’s services? Your best bet is to start by contacting other writers you know and asking for suggestions. Every writer is different, and just because a certain editor works for a friend doesn’t mean that he or she will work well with you, but a reference from a friend is always a good place to start. If this doesn’t work, you could also try an online web source (for example, https://www.editorworld.com/), or a freelancing service (https://www.elance.com/). And don’t forget to check for local editing services in your area, especially if you plan to establish a close relationship with your editor. (See “Myth #5” on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kudler/book-editing_b_2990583.html for more advice on finding an editor).

When you find the right editor, he or she will work with you to help you produce your best possible work. Even if you are the best writer on the planet (and hats off to you if you are!), you still need another set of eyes to check for errors or inconsistencies that you might overlook time and time again. It is the editor’s job to work alongside—and not against—you in order to get your work published, so you should understand that each change the editor makes is for your benefit. After all, no one wants to hire a lousy editor, so the editor’s own reputation is at stake as well! Just remember that editing is a long and often painstaking process, and it may be months or even years before your work is ready for publication. Don’t give up. Your own set of ventriloquist dummies and GI-Joes are waiting to become cowboys and spacemen, and when they do, you might just produce your own masterpiece.

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Colin Bishoff, Writer and Editor, Asta Publications


Asta Publications has a long history of helping writers tell their stories and get published. Since 2004, Asta Publications has helped hundreds of authors bring their book concepts to life and we are ready to help you too! Our dedication to our authors is unmatched. We deliver first-class products and services that are accurate, high quality, and exceed our authors’ expectations.

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