Can You Over Edit Your Story?

By on August 6, 2017
Can You Over Edit Your Story? - Writer's

Most authors feel a sense of trepidation when it comes to editing their books. The initial elation of having finally gotten to the end of your story is short lived, and the process of editing and reshaping your book into something actually readable rears it’s ugly head and makes you realise just how much you still have to do.

Yes, editing can be a long and slow process, but ultimately a satisfying one if, after you have finished, you feel proud and confident in your work.

The problem however, is that many authors are rarely satisfied with their stories, even when they have given them their all. We become too invested, and suddenly reluctant to let go. We think we’ll read over it just ‘one more time’ or work on it for ‘just one more week', but when that is over, we still want to do more.

If we get too close to our work we can never get to the stage where we feel it is ready to send off to publishers or to self-publish. We end up sitting on it for years, tinkering with it now and again until we reach the point when we don’t even know if we are making it any better.

So how do you know if you are in danger of over editing your story? Look out for these telltale signs:

Editing the same sentence or paragraph over and over again

If you can’t seem to get a particular sentence or paragraph right either take it out altogether or just leave it. One slightly off sentence isn’t going to make much difference, and you are probably just too close to your work to see it’s actually fine.

Changing fundamental parts of the story which has a knock on effect

Changing huge parts of your story can be necessary, but if you do it over and over again and then have to change all the other parts to make it work you could just be making your book confusing and worse - make sure if you change significant parts of your book, it’s for good reason.

The start is incredible, and then it gets weaker

Are you just editing the first few chapters over and over again? If the start of your book is mind blowing, but the rest still needs work, you need to move on otherwise you’ll never get finished!

You’ve been editing for more than six months

Editing can take a long time, every author knows this. However, it shouldn’t take years. If you are dedicated to finishing your story you should be able to comfortably edit your novel in six months or less.

People stop asking you about it

Have you been editing your book for so long people stop asking you ‘ how’s the novel coming along?’ If you’ve lost the interest of your nearest and dearest, you should take that as a sign you’ve been working on it for too long.

You only change the odd word and phrase each time you reread

If you are only tinkering with the slightest word or phrase but still refusing not to go back and read the whole thing over again it is probably because you are refusing to let go.

You still believe you can get it perfect

No book ends up being completely perfect with every word as graceful and inspiring as the next. All books have flaws or parts which could be improved. Accept yours can’t be perfect and let it go.

You feel afraid to stop

The fear of finishing is common among authors. We put so much work into our stories that the idea of actually putting them out there and letting others judge them is frightening, but if we don’t, what are we doing it for?

If any of the above signs are ringing a bell it might be time to stop editing your novel, accept that it’s as ready as it is ever going to be and actually do something with it. If you don’t bite the bullet now you may end up ruining all your hard work and even making your story worse than before. So just take a deep breath, step away from your computer and rejoice in the fact that you made it to the end.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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