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Editing: When is Enough, Enough?

          I didn't know what I was going to talk about today as I've been preoccupied with editing my novel and editing on one of the critique forums on the internet. But it was until I saw a girl who said she was about done with her query and wanted to know which version to send out that the idea for what to write today came to me.

          I warned the writer, just like I do every writer who thinks they're done with a piece of work that while ten more people might like it, there will be at least one person who won't and except for a few revisions, she had a pretty solid query. It was much better than what she started out with, and I got a feel for her story. I thought it could get a few bites from agents. But sure enough, a few comments later someone came up with the comment that they didn't like either one, and therefore started a complete overhaul of the query again.

          I can't say it enough. If seven out of ten like it, don't worry about the other three. A writer can't satisfy everyone and a writer can't satisfy every agent. They have different opinions too.

          So when is enough enough? I've been trying to figure it out too as I go through and proofread my novel. The few published authors I communicate with online are saying that you're never truly done until your book is published on a bookshelf somewhere and you can't take it back. That's it. It's done.

          But for those of use who are at least a year or more from publication, when do we know? Well, when we starting changing things back to the way they were before, that's when you know it's time to stop.

          See, there is a fine line between under-editing and over-editing, and when you cross either line you start making sloppy mistakes or do things that don't fit. My suggestion is to pick it up and put it down no more than five or six times. That doesn't include proofreading. But our works will never be perfect and someone will always think it can be improved. So don't worry about the few that don't like it. Focus on the more that like it, if more like it.

          Think of the big names in writing. J.K. Rowling for one. Not everyone likes her book. I mean, there are seven billion people on the planet. But enough of them, definitely not the majority but enough, liked her book and bought it so that she's a billionaire now. So think of it like that.

           We'll never be able to satisfy everyone and we as writers will never be satisfied, but when we feel that we've done all we can and we can do no more because we want to revert it back, that's enough. Live with it and be done. The reader does count, but the writer does too and I think in effort to try to satisfy the readership, we writers forget that.

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Anne E. Johnson said...

You're right, it's a tough question. When do you stop? This problem always makes me think of Chopin, who couldn't stop editing his music even after it was published. He would lean over his piano students with a pencil in his hand and make changes to the sheet music they were playing from! It's hard to let go and say, "Okay, it's done."

Turndog Millionaire said...

Tis very very true.

I just gave my story to a friend to act as my first beta reader. I think i've just finished maybe my 3rd revision? I expect theres going to be one or two more too, but you need to draw a line at some point

Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

LM Preston said...

Oh how right you are. Even with my books that are out, have been edited by professional editors - I still find mistakes :-D

Lady Dae said...

And I wish some of the newer writers, who get intimidated by the people who don't like it or don't think it makes the cut, understood this. You really can't satisfy everyone. It's something we all have to learn. And I've come to accept that my novel will never be perfect. But I can make it perfect enough. Lol.