Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Warning - I thought of this post while brushing my teeth.

Editing is like whitening your teeth.

You may just need a quick brush to polish it.

I equate that to the whitening toothpaste...you won't get too much bang for your buck. But it's better than nothing. If you are an experienced writer, with years of manuscripts behind your belt, then this might be the choice for you. (I was naive after finishing my first draft of my first novel and thought this was all it needed...boy was I wrong.)

Then there is the do-it-yourself whitening kits.

You know, the Rembrandt Whitening System or the Crest Whitestrips. This is the editing that most of us do...some help from the critique group, some flushing out of characters, cleaning up plots and emotional arcs. Time consuming, but effective. And cost efficient.

Finally, there is the go to the dentist and have them put the radioactive goop on your teeth under the light and walk out with TV worthy teeth.

I think of this as the legit, professional editing services. You walk in not realizing there was a stain on that incisor (or inconsistency in your character dialogue) and walk out with something shiny (though you do have to put in the hard work of actually making the changes). Granted, you also walk out with a flatter wallet. And I wonder how much you learn and improve by doing it this way.

Disclaimer: I have never had my teeth professionally whitened, or even unprofessionally whitened. Nor have I gotten my manuscript professionally edited...so I'm just guessing about how helpful it would be.

So now your teeth are white and shiny. But they are still the same teeth. And your manuscript is still the same story you fell in love with. And now it is one you can proudly show the world.


Jannette Johnson said...

I wish I had the money for a professional job (both teeth whitening and editing)but alas, it doesn't grow on trees.

The do-it-yourself kits, I find, teach you how to do things. You may not get it right the first time, but with practise and determination you can learn from your mistakes and be better at it the second or third time around.

And I agree with you; just how much do we learn by having them professionally done?

Suzanne said...

It hurts, but it sure is helpful.

If you have anyone close to you that knows a college level English prof. They will usually help you. OR graduate students focusing on editing. They need practice. OR you can pay for the first fifty or so pages to get edited, which will give you a good feeling for where your errors lay (lie? Lay? Lie?) get my drift? ;)

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

Great analogy, Joyce! I find I can get professional help for minimal investment at our SCBWI conferences. The editors and agents who come to speak generally offer critiques of 10 or 20 pages for $35 or $45. Granted, it's not the whole ms...but think of it like the front teeth only. :)

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

not trying to be annoying, but i'm not sure you've gotten my other comments. once i get your age, i can send my article off! can you please email me at charactertherapist (at) hotmail (dot) com ? i would GREATLY appreciate it!

Danyelle said...

Love the analogy!

Sarah Jensen said...

I agree with this post, and Jannette's comment. If you want to learn the craft, you must do the work.

And you must edit for others as well. You learn so much by doing that.

Great post, as always. :)