Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 24, 2013

Editing: We’re Never Finished; We’re Just Done

I once had a non-writer friend of mine ask, “Aren’t you EVER done editing?”

The answer, as every writer knows, is: “No.” Every published author I’ve spoken to has told me that even when they pick up their published books, they see things they want to change. One said when he does readings, he’ll change the words to what he wished he wrote instead.

We’re never finished—but sometimes we just have to be done.

When you’re on deadline to deliver a finished product, there comes a time when you have to be done, whether you like it or not. But what about before you’ve got that book deal? You could theoretically edit forever.

But you don’t want to edit forever. Eventually, you have to get your work out there—self-published or sent to agents or publishers. If you don’t ever send it out, you’ll never reach an audience. If you don’t stop fiddling with book #1, you will never write a book #2. So at some point you need to declare your book “done.”

For me, that’s usually the 7th or 8th version of the manuscript. There are many more revisions than that, but I usually do “small” revisions with a version, and only change the version number when I’m doing “large” revisions. My revision schedule goes something like this:

Version 1: First draft

Version 2: Clean-up of first draft to make it readable

Then I often do a storyboard to see what scenes I need to add, delete, move around.

Version 3: Draft with all of the above incorporated

Version 4: Do a clean-up, tighten, find typos, etc.

Run it through my critique partners and beta readers

Version 5: Make changes per their suggestions

Version 6: Another clean-up edit, try to make sure hit word count, read aloud

Send to professional developmental editor

Version 7: Make developmental edits. (Often includes banging head against wall and/or crying, “I can’t do this!”)

Version 8: Read through version 7 silently for continuity. Do clean-up edit. Then read aloud for final polish.

So that’s roughly my process. By the time I hit version 8, I am emotionally and mentally done with the book. I know I have done all I can do without further professional input. So I send it out into the world, to agents and publishers, and hope I’ve done my job well enough to attract their attention.

So, no, my non-writing friend, I am never finished editing. I am just done.

How do you know when you’re done editing?

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Responses

  1. I too take my book to beta readers, that is, my writer’s group. Before I send it to any editor, I also go through Writing the Breakout Novel and follow the suggestions given. A lot of times reading and rereading that book turns up areas that have to go in the WIP and things that need to be added.
    There are some things I wish I’d done different with Steel Rose (the published book). Not too many, but they are there. I’ll know that my WIP is ready for a publisher after I’ve sent the book to a good editor and follow the directions she / he gives. Occasionally, those edits are enough to make me run to a balloon store. Then I’ll send it off anticipating a few more edits from publisher.
    Barbara of the Balloons

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  2. I think the key really is feedback from people whose craft judgement you trust, whether paid editors and/or beta readers. They’ll let you know when you’ve hit the sweet spot.

    I think the other reason we always see things in published works that we’d like to change is because we keep growing as writers. So we are better at our craft now than we were when we wrote that book or short story. What was our best effort then is not the best we could do now. And that is how it should be!

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