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When is enough rewriting and editing enough?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by kinslayeur, May 14, 2019.

  1. kinslayeur

    kinslayeur Scribe

    I have a pattern that I try to stick to when it comes to editing, rewriting, and repeating until the manuscript is ready. But, it seems that I've gone to writing, rewriting, editing, writing some more, rewriting, editing and now feel like I'm in an endless loop.

    What do others do? I used to do the method of sevens after the initial draft was complete. Now, I'm all over the place.

    Suggestions? Ideas? Thoughts?
  2. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

    We come to such forums seeking something formulaic, concrete. Anyone who would provide you something as such isn't helping you. You have given very little to go on, but I can tell you one sure fire indicator you're done with the writing:

    Someone of experience, and/or with a position of relevant authority has proclaimed your manuscript ready. Lacking that, you have only one other option. Peer acceptance.

    You can gain peer acceptance from a writing group, or from online authors you consider of adequate quality. I gained so much from this forum when we would critique each other's WIP. I gained something else entirely when I opened up to a local writing group that offered a broader range of preference and skill.

    I'm still on that quest. I'd suggest you begin by posting something here and seek out other authors who do the same with similar or higher skillset than yourself. Ask to form a critique circle and open yourself to the criticism you're most likely to receive.

    There are things to consider when you engage in peer feedback, but that is another topic.
    Rkcapps likes this.
  3. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Scribe

    I write the first draft as fast as I can (not that fast). And then I deepen the story in drafts two and three (each of the three drafts has a specific aim). I don't see any of these drafts as editing, but as a deepening. I'm still working creatively.

    After I'm happy that the work is creatively complete, I then edit—looking on it from a critical (not creative) point of view.

    I find it useful not to put the critical editing hat on too soon; otherwise, I end up slowing myself down.
  4. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    For me, the process is:

    1 - rough draft. Not real rough, as I try to fix the glaringly obvious stuff as I go along, which means I manage maybe a 1000 words a night instead of 2000. Most of my longer tales (40,000+ words) have taken 6-8 weeks.

    2 - the rewrite - patch the plot holes, resolve the character, logic, and world building issues. With me, the big deal is sequence issues - scenes that are in the wrong chapters. This often means tossing entire chapters, writing new chapters from scratch, and greatly expanding existing chapters. Typically, about a third of the rough draft will get tossed - sometimes more. In a couple cases, I tossed something like 80% of the original (Labyrinth: Journal, Empire: Country, and Empire: Estate.) The 40,000+ drafts I start with tend to hit the 60,000+ word mark by the end of this process. This stage typically takes months and is disheartening.

    Shorter works - under about 25,000 words tend to be focused enough to where I can skip the rewrite and move straight to editing.

    3 - the edit passes. Usually several of these - fixing speech tags, getting the names straight, grammar bugs, and minor plot hiccups. Several passes here.

    And that is about all i can tell you. Go with what works.
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    It's like this. The more you need to edit, the more it shows that you're still growing, and need to grow, as a writer. If you give your story to a pro it's not unlikely for something to need to change in almost every sentence. But that percentage goes down. It gets better. YOU get better.

    You edit until you're happy with it. And then you give it to somebody who makes you unhappy with it again. That's editing.
    Rkcapps likes this.
  6. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    I set a pre-order date... It’s done when that date comes. Otherwise, I might just tinker around forever.

    This may not be the sanest option.
    Insolent Lad likes this.
  7. Firefly

    Firefly Minstrel

    If your story gets significantly better each time you go through, then by all means keep going. Don't cut it off too soon solely because you feel like you're spending to much time on it. As Devor already mentioned, you could just be going through a lot of growth right now. It's okay to be stalled for a really long time on one book as you're building up your skill set and learning how to write.
    If you're just fiddling around with sentences and this is your third time going through the manuscript, though, I would suggest being done. Anything you failed to catch your first two times looking through is likely too small for most of your readers to notice (Or else it was out of your skill set, because aforementioned growth). Of course, little things will always get through, but doing a million more drafts in hopes you will catch everything is futile perfectionism.

    Once you're published, you have to worry more about deadlines and stuff, (whether they're from a publisher or self-imposed) but if you're not in that position, I would make it as good as your current skills allow. You do reach a point where more changes are really only changes and aren't really improving the reading experience that much, and it you have a sneaking suspicion that's where you may be at but aren't quite sure, maybe try getting some feedback, but don't stress about too many revisions if you really do feel like they're helping the book of your skills as a writer.
  8. Rkcapps

    Rkcapps Sage

    I know my editing process has to include critiquing and beta readers.
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    What is "the method of sevens?"

    Your post implies that you have completed novels prior to this. If so, and firstly, congratulations! But it also means that you know what "done" feels like. It sounds like you don't feel this project is done yet. Have I got that right?
  10. kinslayeur

    kinslayeur Scribe

    The method of sevens:

    1 - basic grammar, punctuation, flow
    2 - editor
    3 - go over edits and correct then check for plot holes
    4 - editor
    5 - go over second round of edits and correct
    6 - final check by editor
    7 - go over third edits and correct and final read through

    Yes, I have finished 3 books prior to this one. I have gone through the first seven edits, but something feels like it isn't ready even though my three beta readers, my editor, and my wife all say it is. The thing I will have to accept is that there can always be something that can be fixed, but nothing truly will ever be 100% perfect.
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    To quote The Pretenders, nothing's ever perfect, not even a perfect stranger.

    That method is almost the opposite from what I do. I do big revisions first, on the theory that there's no point editing punctuation, e.g., on a passage that may wind up on the cutting floor.

    You are fortunate to have an editor who will go over multiple drafts. Every editor I've encountered would charge for each pass, and I can barely afford even a copy edit one time.

    If you don't have a publishing deadline, maybe set this thing aside for a while. How long is a while? Long enough to give your subconscious (your muse, your heart, your shoulder demon) time to process that instinctive doubt you have. Could be a week or a month, but not so long that you lose the rhythm of the story, the smell and feel of it. Chances are, when you return, you'll know either that it's ready (enough), or you'll have a better notion as to what needs revision.

    OTOH, if you have a deadline, meet it and fuggedaboudit!
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  12. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    The only person who can really answer this question is you. What are your writing/professional goals? How long can you keep going in this editing loop? When will your manuscript finally be good enough to send off or release? You're the only one who can determine that.

    Never again for me. I've had to rush out work in order to make my pre-order deadline and I just can't. Hopefully it's different for you.
    skip.knox likes this.
  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    I would’ve been fine if the book didn’t run 57k more words than I expected, LOL. That and a weird overwrite between dropbox and Scrivener. Otherwise, I kind of like the adrenaline of it, and i don’t set anything I can’t make. If I hadn’t set the rpesale, book 2 still might not be “done”, LOL.
  14. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Article Team

    For us, "done" is basically when I'm just rearranging the same words over and over. When my co-authors sign off and make me leave it alone. :D We have a "Locked" folder for final drafts that I'm not allowed in, and that more than anything makes me stop playing with a manuscript. Plus, deadlines are a thing.

    So, basically, when editing is no longer producing useful changes, you're done.
    Firefly likes this.
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    All good advice here, but I'm sympathetic with the OP. Especially if it's a first novel, the author doesn't yet have a sense for what done looks or feels like. He can't really distinguish between a useful change and a wasteful change. He's at a loss to know what is good enough and what isn't. At least, I certainly didn't.

    I sort of do now, but not to the point where I can give useful guidance to others. There's a line, but it seems to move around from one novel to the next. Short stories, the few I've written, seem easier.
    A. E. Lowan likes this.

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