Thursday, March 27, 2014

Writing 101: How Do You Know You're Done Editing?

So when you mention self-publishing, at some point someone is going to bring up editing. They'll talk about the lack thereof, or they'll express amazement that an indie book is edited so well. It always comes up, and you always have to pay careful attention to it. So when you're working on a new novel, how do you know when you're done editing it? 

Words, Words, Words! 

For many, editing is the worst part about writing. It can be humbling to read through the pages of a first draft and catch all those ugly mistakes - the kind of errors that only a rookie would make. It can be daunting to find plot holes and gaps in your story, and it can be time-consuming to fix all of this mess and turn it into a smooth, polished book. 

Because first drafts usually are such a mess, you can't edit your book just once. You have to go back again and again, read it over and over, in order to catch all those mistakes. I read each one of my books at least 5 times. I read over everything I write once I'm done writing for the night. I read over it again if I get stuck anywhere. I edit the first draft from beginning to end. Then I read it at least three times, in three different ways, to catch all the tiny mistakes that are still left. But I may not stop at 5, because the book I'm checking may be too riddled with errors. 

How do I know when I'm done? How do you know when you're done? How does any author know when they're finally finished editing that book? 

The answer is simple. When you can read your entire manuscript, from title page to the last page, without finding a single error then you are done. As a matter of fact, you should still read it at least once more after this. Because no matter how many times you read it or how carefully you check it, that book will still have at least one mistake in it. That's the nature of the beast. But if you can get it down to just one mistake then you're doing amazing. 

You're done editing when you stop finding errors, and even then everything may not be completely perfect. Being an author means getting as close to perfect as you can with every book you write. Editing is the only way to do it.

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