For a manuscript to finally turn into a book, the editing process must eventually come to an end. If you keep going on and on, your book will never be published, and no one will ever read your work. So, the question then becomes: When is the right time to stop editing? How can you be sure that the manuscript is ready to be submitted for publication?
-When You're Just Changing Things Instead Of Improving Your Work
There may come the point in your editing process when it feels like all you're doing is change things for the sake of change without visible improvement. It can happen to the best of us. A few weeks before a deadline, you find yourself rearranging chapters and playing around with fonts and character names. Eventually, you realize that none of these modifications make your writings any better, just different.
So, why do we do this? I believe that we subconsciously recognize that very soon, we will be unable to make any further changes, and that thought frightens us. As a result, we attempt to compensate by making more changes than necessary.
The thing that helps me move my writing along - I keep asking myself, "Is this just a change or an actual improvement?" If it actually improves your manuscript, then keep it. If not, then you are probably done editing.
-You're About to Miss Your Deadline
More than likely, you're editing too much if you are about to miss a deadline because of it. As long as you keep your writing on track, you should have no problem finishing your manuscript by the date you've chosen or been assigned. But if you allow one deadline to pass, what's to stop you from missing any others? For that matter, what would be the point of establishing any deadlines in the first place?
When this happens, you have, more than likely, entered into the changes-not-improvements stage. See how it's all interconnected? Not to mention that you don't want to become known as an author who misses essential deadlines, as this is a sure way to build a bad reputation. Traditional publishers most certainly won't like it. They need manuscripts submitted on time so they can fulfill their scheduling requirements. If you bust your assigned deadline, your manuscript won't get published, no matter how much time you devoted to editing.
Independent authors are not much better off in that regard. Sure, you might not have an agent or publisher you need to please. However, your readership expects a periodic output of your work. Your audience is less likely to continue to support you if you become known as the author who neglects deadlines.
Without a doubt, things will vary from writer to writer. Perhaps you uncover a gaping plot hole and have no choice but to seek an extension. However, this should be the exception to the rule, not the standard.
-You're Just Sick of Your Writing Project
Again, this varies from author to author. Some never tire of their manuscript; others might grow sick of their writing project after just a few weeks. Yet, losing interest in a project more than likely means that it's time to stop editing. And now you may wonder, why!?
Well, the explanation is a simple one: The first few days or even weeks of editing are always so exhilarating. Perhaps it's the first time you've looked at your initial draft in a month, or maybe you just finished it yesterday. Either way, the fun comes from the prospect of improving upon your writing. At this stage, it's more than likely that you'll find something in need of refinement on nearly every single page. And that's a good thing. That's what I like to call progress, and that's just bound to be thrilling.
But then, as weeks pass and you've read the same passages over and over, your interest will invariably wane, and you may even become bored with the text. That's because as the quality of your manuscript improves, the need for further modifications decreases. Eventually, you will find yourself re-reading the same text over and over that can't be improved upon - at least not by you. So, you get sick of it.
In the end, editing a manuscript can be just as time-consuming as the writing process itself, if not more so. But editing time isn't limitless, nor should it be. Your audience wants to read your newest work. So, stop making changes for the sake of change, submit your work, and move on to the next writing project!
Piper is the award-winning author of The Country Girl Empress series. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Medium, and Goodreads.
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