Editing: How Do You Know When Enough Is Enough?

8 Feb

It’s taken all week, combined with work on other projects, but I’ve finally finished my paper edit. Here’s the “after” photo (the “before” photo can be seen here):

Yes, I ran one red pen out completely...

Yep, one red pen wasn’t enough…

The next stage is to put my amendments into my WIP’s file on Scrivener, and then I think it’s time to send it off to the professional editor. I might read it through once more first. Or maybe I shouldn’t. Eek, I don’t know.

I can tell already that my main issue with editing is going to be knowing when to stop. I’m pretty good at figuring that out with short stories as I’ve had a lot more practice there, but can the same principles be applied to editing a novel? How much I like my novel depends on what part I’m reading and what mood I’m in.

I don’t think that I, like many writers, will ever be able to read it through without wanting to change something, but I don’t want to get caught up in an endless cycle of tweaking! So how do you know when to stop?

I know some people say that if you’re self-publishing, start with the ebook and then follow up with the POD paperback a few months later. That way, if you do have to make any changes in the first few months (which is apparently when any hiccups or errors are most likely to show up), you only have to update the ebook file.

I was already planning to release the ebook first, for two main reasons. Firstly, it spreads the work out for me, but secondly, I’m pretty sure that I’ll sell more ebooks than paperbacks. Let’s face it: I’m an unknown author, and the cost of an ebook is less of an investment for someone giving my novel a try.

But I’m also sure that I won’t want to put my novel out there until it’s as near to perfect as I can get it. And that’s why I’m worrying about knowing where to stop when editing. Otherwise my novel may never get published!

In other news, I went to see Les Miserables earlier in the week. What can I say? What an amazing film! I loved that they didn’t record the songs in a studio. It was much more raw and emotional that way (and I was in floods of tears on more than one occasion). It was pretty draining for me, though, and by the end of it I was regretting our decision to go to Morrisons to do the food shopping on the way home!

Going back to editing, what do you think? When you’re editing a novel, how do you know when enough is enough?

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8 Responses to “Editing: How Do You Know When Enough Is Enough?”

  1. Alex J. Cavanaugh February 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Makes sense to do the eBook first. I stop editing when I realize I’m changing things back to the way they were in the first draft. That’s when I know I’m done.

    • Stacey Mitchell February 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      That’s a great point — I hadn’t considered that eventually my editing might come full circle! Thanks Alex :-)

  2. Malcolm Noble February 8, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    Think of the worst person you know. Someone who’s always having a go at you. Someone who always wants to get one up on you. Someone you’d rather cross the road than pass on the pavement. When you’re happy for them to read your book, you’ve finished editing

    • Stacey Mitchell February 20, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

      Thanks Malcolm, that’s a great point. I’ll bear it in mind.

  3. Natalie February 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    The mood I am in really influences my editing. A lot of ‘REWRITE THIS ENTIRE CHAPTER’ can happen if I’m not in the right mood – those are the days where I think I should rewrite the whole book. Not a good time to edit! The above comments are really useful and I will remember them when I get to that point (a long way off at the moment!). Unfortunately, I don’t have any advice to add!

    • Stacey Mitchell February 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

      Oh my — mood has a MASSIVE effect on my editing. Yes, I definitely agree that ‘those’ days should be spent doing something else entirely!

  4. Elle Turner February 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    I stop when I know I’m faffing around – when it’s comma in, comma out, comma back in again. I think then I risk changing for changes sake rather than because I know something needs changed.

    • Stacey Mitchell February 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

      Faffing — a good sign that you’ve probably done enough and are just stalling before moving on to the next stage. I have recently experienced just that feeling! :-)

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