Writing Wednesdays: You may never be done editing, and that's okay

September 14, 2016
Editing can seem like a never-ending process if you get stuck in the cycle. In this post, I talk about how you may never be done editing - and why that's okay.

Editing can be one of the biggest stresses associated with writing a novel. Just when you think you’ve done all the hard work by actually writing a novel, you realise that it’s not over yet. There’s still more to go. You still have to edit.

Now, I’ve written a couple of posts about editing your novel before:
A lot of confusion can come in with regards to editing your novel. When do you edit? How soon is too soon to edit? What should you be looking for when you edit? Should you let someone else edit?

And, possibly the biggest question of them all: How do you know when you’re finished editing?

Which is what this post is about. If you want to know more about how to go about editing your novel, check out the posts linked just above in this post.

So… when are you done editing? How do you know when you’re finished?

In all honesty, I don’t think you can ever truly be done editing. Your books is like, your baby, and you’ve poured a lot of love and life and time into it. You want to make it perfect. But you’re always wanting to change something.

For instance: The Kissing Booth, my first published novel. The first draft was rambling and long and rough. The second draft, which I did pretty much straight after finishing the first, was generally neater, but didn’t change much of the content. And I just knew there was something I wasn’t quite happy with – like when your sock is twisted inside your shoe and you can’t seem to fix it but you know it’s just not right. I kept rewriting some scenes, until I ended up cutting big chunks entirely, and then tying up the loose ends between them and adding a little more content to fix it up.

It was that re-written draft that I sent to Random House when I signed the contract with them. But was it done? Nope. My editor offered a fresh pair of eyes and we cut some filler chapters as well as a lot of recap paragraphs/mentions that were necessary for Wattpad serialisation but not needed in the novel. We cut a few things, tidied it up.

You might also like this post on how traditional publishing works.

Still not done, though! We sent it back and forth with new edits or suggestions each time for a few times (maybe four, five?) and then it went in for copy edits. So I then had page proofs – basically the whole book manuscript printed out on loose sheets of paper in the format it would have in the published book, and I read through those with any other edits I had. I couldn’t make major edits to that, for the record – just things like, ‘Oh, this needs to be in italics,’ or ‘Cut this sentence, or reword this sentence’.

You’d think, after that, all my editing work was done. And I mean, technically, it was. Once the copy edits were finished, the book was published. But whenever I’ve read it back over I’ve seen more things I’d like to change.

If you ever go back over something you wrote a while back and already edited, you’re almost sure to find stuff you want to change that you might not have even noticed or might have been happy with before but now don’t like. If you step back from your work for long enough, you’ll go back with a fresher mind.

When it comes to finishing editing your novel, it’s totally up to you. My main advice, though, for which steps to take in editing:

  • Leave your work alone for a while – maybe a couple of months.
  • Go back with the aim of tidying it up. Continuity issues or typos or grammatical and spelling errors, as well as any scenes you just don’t like or things you think you need to add.
  • Then leave it alone again.
  • If you want, revisit it and see if there’s anything you’re still unhappy with and check for any more little errors that are easy to fix.

If you want, you can hire an editor (but be wary because you know there can be people online who will nick your money and scam you so just like, be warned??) but it’s not always necessary. Some agents request that you send your manuscript to a professional editor before you make a submission. 

If you’re wary, though, I’d recommend emailing the agency and asking if they can recommend an editor for you. Also, not all agencies want you to do this, so it’s not the be-all and end-all.

You could ask a friend to take a look over your work, or someone else you trust with your book. It’s totally up to you though. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but some people find it useful.

Also, if your book gets published, the publisher will provide you with an editor, so that’s always a big help. If you’re self-publishing though, the editing is ultimately down to you.

Will you ever be finished editing?

Probably not.

What do you guys think? Are you ever completely finished editing any of your books?

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