Editing - when do you stop?

edited June 2016 in - Writing Problems
Hi all - I have been working on competition entry - the brief is 500 words, so as you know that is a bit tight. my original rambling draft was nearly 700 and after a lot of pruning and tidying up I got it down to 499. Job done, you would think. But no, that 499 word, almost-finished, draft has been revisited and tweaked so many times I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever submit it by deadline date. I haven't changed much, in fact my wife often doesn't even notice any changes at all between drafts. I do the oft advised thing of leaving it for a day or so, then re-reading, and always manage to find a word, sometimes two, or perhaps even just a comma that needs changing. Does anyone ever reach a point where they are 100% happy with their work, or do I have to submit in time for meeting the deadline and trust that I have done all I can?


  • I've learned to recognise when I'm just making changes, rather than making improvements. That's the time to stop.
  • I'd leave it more than two days. A week at least. Then print it out, as mistakes jump out more like that, and see if anything seems wrong with the weight of the pattern of the story - which can change if too many tweaks take place.

    Then, as PM says, leave!
  • Of course with poems - often there is no end.
  • Yes, agree with what PM has said.
  • You will never be completely satisfied.
    As the others said, better to leave it for as long as possible rather than frequent re-tweaking without giving your brain enough time to forget what is coming next.
    Then you have to send it off and see what others think of it!
  • There is no end to editing because you change every day. Even mood can affect what you'll edit on a piece. Get it damn close and to a point where you're willing to let it go, not when you think it's 100% perfect...because that moment will never exist.
  • Agreed - there is no end to striving for perfection!
    Read it out loud slowly as though there is an audience listening. If everything reads smoothly then it's probably ready to go.
  • Agree with br - although my first three chapters appear damn near perfect to me.
    I haven't read the rest of that book for a while and am about to do so, just in case one of my submissions results in a positive response!
  • Editing stops when you make the decision to stop. I should know - I have a terrible editing habit!
  • Here's the painful truth:

    First draft - then edit - rid yourself of 30k words, the character that reminds you of your first ever girlfriend's mother and the dead fruit bat.

    First rewrite - second edit - lose the main characters best friend because she's a cow and replace her with someone much nicer and bring back the dead fruit bat.

    Second rewrite - ditch another 49k words and remove all references to what was relevant 6 years ago when you started the damn book and try and at least appear in touch with what's going on today. Use the search option in word to identify the word 'was'. Suddenly realise that out of the 23000 words you've got left 'was' makes up 18500 of them.

    Third draft learn to live without the 'wizard of was' and the whole thing starts to conduct together - especially after the fruit bat miraculously cones back to life in chapter 12.
    4th edit give it to your sister to read - she says 'it's OK. ' your sisters an avid reader of Heat magazine so it must be good.

    Last edit - save it in size 12 times new roman, double space, add in page numbers then send it off to an agent saying your cat is their cats best friend and Bobs your Auntie you end up with a 10 book deal with Harper Collins - simple. Why don't we all do that?
  • What could be simpler?

    Thanks, datco.
  • Brilliant, datco!
  • I don't have a sister. Will a long-haired brother do?
  • Or a long-haired lover from...?
  • If I'm singing that all night now, there will be consequences Miss Books!
  • I'll... be... your...

  • Nooooooooooooo!
  • Bad Books!
  • edited June 2016
    I started singing Away in a Manger while walking this morning. I thought that was bad. But lo - there is worse! Thanks very much, Baggy Books, to whom a large red editing pen is going to be applied very swiftly from above!
    ...be your clown or your puppet or your April Fool...
    Dammit, I know the words. I am doomed.
  • I'll serenade you 'til you're old and grey...

  • ..if you'll be my sunshine daisy from LLLLLLLLL - AAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaay.

  • But all the other flowers hung their heads and cried...

    Bloody second verse!
  • What? You lot are showing your ages.

  • I'm not going to join in the singing.

    (Evidently I'm the exception to the rule)
  • But it's in your head, isn't it, PM? There's no escaping that piping little voice and the memory of that cheery schmalzy little chap on TOTP. Dammit. Must try to think of something - anything - else. Elephants. Racing Cars. Haddock. Anything to rid the mind of the pain.
  • *Waits for tuneless caterwauling to die down*

    So, Dasco66, did you submit your competition entry?

    If not, and the deadline's still looming, then print your story out, read it aloud (or better still, get somebody else to read it to you), make any changes that jump out at you, proof read, proof read again, and then send it off.


    After that, if you weren't successful, find another competition, and repeat.
  • I agree - don't look at it between submission and hearing the result (whether competition or regular sub).
  • Short stories are okay, but how many of us have friends who are A willing to read 100,000 words of your novel and B can be relied on for an honest and useful opiion?
  • Done, submitted and now shut away in a drawer, not to be looked at again until results (or lack thereof) are revealed.
  • Good luck!
    And well done whatever happens!
  • Good luck, Dasco!
  • Best of British!
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