Sunday, November 20, 2011

Don’t stop til you get enough

Oh, the bane, the bear, the brutality of the relentless self-editing.

Perfectly adequate sleeping hours are waving as they pass me by. The threat of yet another late night feeding from my little Rafey forebodes with each fleeting hour. And yet I convince myself that this is THE FINAL READ THROUGH. “You are almost there,” I chant in my head, providing my own personal pep squad—and no, I was not a cheerleader. Speaking aloud while my hubby sleeps nearby is a sure fire way to get booted from the comforts of my bed. I get enough grief from the supposed “jack hammering” of my fingers on the keys and the soft glow of the screen as it is. But honestly, the man can fall asleep sitting up on the couch with every light in the house on, and the TV roaring at absurd decibels. Men are peculiar creatures.

So here goes the final edit, the final read through, until page 3. How on earth have I read that sentence fifty-five times and still never noticed that for is supposed to be from? And why is she smiling so much, there is a dead body in this scene?

For those of you with irritating perfectionistic tendencies like me, the vastness of 90K+ words proves to be a daunting task to comb through. And as my self-prescribed deadlines come and go, I wonder if I will ever bite the bullet, pry the electronic, and thus metaphorical, pages from my white knuckled grip and lay it all on the line.

Okay, so maybe I am a baby writer. And some glorious day, I will know exactly what my editor will look for, my observations and insights into my own work will become super-keen and second-nature, but what about now? How much editing is enough?

And if I keep going, past the point of sanity, will I edit the life out of the pages? Is there such a thing as too much?

Now, obviously, editing is a good thing. My first novel, Beauty for Ashes, barely resembles the original text I pounded out in six short weeks. Thank goodness! We have all seen the amazing fruits of our labors when it comes to editing, shaping the story, adding the detail that really puts the reader in the moment. As if the words on the page were a holographic image instead of lines and curves of black and white.

But how do you know when it’s done? Ready? As good as you can possibly get it?

What is your litmus test for a truly complete manuscript?


  1. Ah, when to let go?
    Something most writers struggle with ... except for those rare few who blithely send there not-ready-for-prime-time manuscripts out, unedited.
    For me, there does come a point when I can't read the manuscript one. more. time. That's when I know it's time to send it. Actually, it's probably past time.
    I also know this doesn't mean the manuscript is perfect. Or that it will never be edited again--or that it won't change form. Significantly. It just means I've done my best.
    For now.
    And having the input of a critique partner/group along the way certainly helps with the whole letting-go process.

  2. Even your blog is an awesome read! Husband's ARE very peculiar creatures for sure. Haha...

  3. Short answer, when your deadline hits. :)
    Laughed out loud at why's she smiling so much with all the dead bodies around?!

    I have a ms I'm ready to send in because I'm too close to it again to make helpful edits. I find if I can get away from it for a few weeks then come back to it, I'll be more willing to tackle the hard edits that I've been saying are good enough as written. As for catching things like "for" for "from" I've found uploading the story to my Kindle to read it, really helps me to catch things.

  4. did i know you had a blog?!? NO. why is that? i need to know these things! :)

    hope you have a happy thanksgiving!

    the character therapist