Editing: How do you know when enough is enough?

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As I’m moving forward with the process of cleaning up my manuscript and getting ready to send it out to agents, I have to stop and wonder when is it enough?  With this particular piece, I’ve gone through with the red pen, did a second sweep directly on the computer, read it several times, had two sets of beta readers (at different points in the editing process). I’ve had the first five pages and the first few chapters critiqued by a couple of different people as well.

Do I think it’s ready? Do I think it’s nearing perfection? Nope.  My next move will be to read it out loud. I plan on using my laptop’s mic to record myself so I can listen to the play back while following along. That way I can stop and make corrections.  I think this will work best to make sure the dialog flows smoothly and doesn’t come off as sounding too cheesy.

Will I be done once those corrections are made? I just don’t know! I’m not a grammatical idiot, but I’m also no pro. I’ve got the basics down pat (periods, commas and capitalization are my friends!).  I know I have issues switching tense, so I keep an eye out for those kinds of things. It’s some of the other issues that I’m afraid will creep up on me, like accidentally switching to an omniscient point of view, that will stand out like a huge glaring mistake to people in the business.

I can’t afford to hire myself an editor. Not at this point in the game. I have to go with the resources I have available to me:  my own smarts, friends who are grammatical whizzes and a couple of books I have left over from college level writing classes.

At some point I’m going to have to deem it as good as it gets. I know it won’t be perfect and I don’t doubt an interested agent will want changes made, but I’ll do my best to get it to a place I’m happy with before sending it out there.

You’re going to have to make that decision for yourself as well. To help you with the process, check out some of these sites. They’re recommending some books as well. I’ll have to pick them up myself. 

http://bubblecow.co.uk/2010/08/editing-your-own-novel-the-importance-of-self-editing/
http://bubblecow.co.uk/2010/07/tips-for-editing-your-own-novel/
http://www.selfeditingblog.com/

If you have any editing tips that aren’t covered in these links that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section! I know I would appreciate any and all advice as I’m sure other readers here would as well.

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8 responses »

  1. I remember when I was editing one of my stories. At one point I just felt there was nothing more I wanted to do to it myself. So I stopped editing and found some betas and now any changes I do will hinge on what they suggest.
    At some point you just have to decide to stop.

  2. I agree with Nathan… reading aloud is the easiest way to see what works and what doesn't work – and catch mistakes.

    Since I've never published anything (take this with a grain of salt), but I believe something is never perfect – and it's easy to get stuck in editing limbo (it's very Dante Alighieri kind of place) and I do think it's possible to edit too much (in the same way that a public speaker can practice a speech too much – and it comes off more rehearsed than heartfelt). That said, I think most people who send in their manuscript haven't edited enough – so I'd just edit until you're happy with it (and remember there is no perfect).

    Good luck 😉

  3. Heh. Where's my Mephistopheles? I could be Faustian and sell my soul for an editor! Although, I'd prefer to be Margarita so at least I get a fun party out of the deal as well 😀

  4. I'm going through this myself right now–with four novels. I've got the editing for such things as sentence structure, dialogue, etc., down, but I never feel I've included all I need for the “story.” My critic partners have been saying my stories were ready for years now, but I've held back. Guess somehow I (you) will know when the time is right.

  5. Really? I knew I liked you for a reason! Heh Most people have not even heard of that book, let alone like it! It is one of my all time favorites as well.

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