Something I asked a lot as I wrote my first couple manuscripts was, "When do I get to be done?" Because the process can feel never ending, can't it? Especially when you're constantly growing as a writer, learning new techniques and rules.
For me, being done has sometimes been as simple as saying, "This is the best I can do at this time and place. That will have to be good enough." Several of my early manuscripts fall into that category still. I took them as far as I could at the time, started on new projects, and they're still sitting around waiting for me to clean them up.
If you're not writing stuff that's publishable yet, don't despair. You're learning every time you sit down to write. There's nothing wrong with this being a process. Nobody is perfect at their profession fresh out of the gate, right? My husband is a mechanical engineer. He spent 4 years getting his undergrad, 2 years getting his masters, and there was still a lot to learn when he started working. Why should writing be any different?
Here's what my process looks like from conception to completion:
1. I come up with an idea big enough for a novel. I talk about it with my crit girl, Roseanna. Sometimes she offers suggestions, and sometimes she says, "Sounds great. Can't wait to read it."
2. I write a sucky first draft.
3. I revise and make it less sucky.
4. I revise again and make it good enough that I won't feel embarrassed to have Roseanna (and often my husband) read it.
5. Roseanna reads it wickedly fast and offers her feedback.
6. I input all her feedback, write scenes she suggests, etc.
7. I go through the manuscript one more time and give it a good polish.
8. It gets sent to my editor. She makes suggestions, and I input those.
9. It goes to a copy editor. She checks for continuity/typos/etc. I make all those changes.
10. My publishing house mails me a hard copy of typeset proofs. I'm only allowed to change stuff that HAS to be changed at this point. (Like typos or major errors.) I read through the manuscript and make necessary changes.
11. Then, because I'm paranoid, I do one last read through. I send my copy editor the list of changes I made and declare the manuscript, "DONE."
And, no, I never read my books in book form. I'm terrified I'll find a typo and won't be able to change it.
How about you? When do you decide you've done enough editing?
Have a writing question? E-mail me.