Editing…How Do You Know When You’re Done?


As many of you know, I’m in the editing phase of my novel and hope to have it ready to present to literary agents by the summer. A goal I feel to be very realistic.

Like many of you I struggle with knowing when I’m done. When will all the necessary revisions be made? I mean, how is it that we can rewrite the same sentence five times, let it sit for a few days—or weeks—and find five more ways to write it? It can be total madness.

I went to an article written by one of my favorite bloggers to see what he had to say on the subject. Jerry Jenkins has been around for a long time, and I trust his judgement completely. According to him, there are two ways of knowing when you’re done:

Trust your gut– Knowing what sounds right, what reads best, is what being a writer means. You should be writing for yourself and believing there are many others out there just like you. When it reads the way that feels right to you, stop. You’re there.

Read it aloud-When you hear it, everything becomes clear—whether you’re reading it to yourself or someone else. Any phrasing that causes a hesitation or a hitch in your delivery is a clue.  You need to relook at what you wrote and tweak it.

Ask yourself, am I making it read better, clearer, more concise, or changing it altogether? If you are changing the original intent, you need to stop.

-Jan R

Editing…How Do You Know When You’re Done?

16 thoughts on “Editing…How Do You Know When You’re Done?

  1. It’s funny, I actually look forward to editing. With a rough draft I’m confronted with the blank page, the countless possibilities, but when I’m editing I already have a framework. There are still innumerable options, but now I can say “Well if this isn’t working, why? Should I try something completely opposite, or just a few notches over?” The existing text often functions like a tuning fork.
    In regards to when to stop editing, I think there is a kindof inner “ideal” of a story that exists in a writer’s mind, and there comes a time where it’s less clear if a change would bring the story on paper closer to that ideal, or not.
    Similarly when I review books I often feel that there are clear weak points that could be improved upon, but once in a while I really wonder if further revision would be more likely to weaken the story, rather than strengthen it.
    Of course there’s also the real world factors of deadlines, and other projects that also ask for and eventually demand their turn to be crafted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh boy a hot topic for me. I never feel done even when I say I am. I still wonder… I’m currently dabbling with a re-write of chapter one since I suspect it might be the reason I’ve been swimming in rejection from agents. Good for you for setting a goal, when you do query keep your head up, you may get a thousand no’s but you only need one yes.


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