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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