Writing Problems: Editing Until You Hate It

Novels take a long time to write and, unless you have some sort of magic powers, they take a long time to revise and edit. In my case, at least, much longer than the actual initial writing. This is fun, of course — finding new paths the story can take, discovering new information about your character that you hadn’t realized before. You can discover a whole new depth to your story, and that’s amazing.

But, you can also take it too far. You can edit and shift until you turn it into mush. Or, maybe even on the 500th read-through you still see a new plot hole, realize another, potentially better way to play out the scene in chapter 2. And then you just get sick of it — either you decide this will never be readable at the rate your going, or you simply can’t abide the thought of looking at those words again. Again barring those with magic powers, I think this happens to most writers at some point, and then it’s either time for a break, or to accept that it’s as good as you can make it and just send it out into the world. Either way, set it aside and work on something that you haven’t edited into the ground yet.

Which is exactly what I’ll do… once I edit it one more time.

What do you think — how much editing is too much? And how do you decide to just stop?

3 thoughts on “Writing Problems: Editing Until You Hate It

  1. Editing is one of the most intense processes. I feel like it’s a deal breaker on most of my stories because I just get so discouraged by plot holes or flow. It’s rough. Going and working on something else is a great idea. I’m always afraid to stop working on something though because then it will sit in my files, half-edited and pushed away like a bad memory – never forgotten but somehow pushed past – until I can muster up the courage to open it again. Usually that’s about the time I send it for a peer review of some kind, so I can get a fresh pair of eyes on it. Or I talk it out, out loud with myself.

    • One thing I’ve discovered about getting stuck on plot holes is that sometimes, when I really can’t think of what to do, I go for a walk, or go to my yoga class, and somehow during that time an answer that actually makes sense pops into my head, where dwelling on it got me no where. Fresh eyes are super helpful too, for those parts where you know something’s not right but you can’t quite pinpoint it. I’ve also got pages of my notebook that are just brainstorming; mad, thoughtless scribbling has gotten me out of a lot of jams.

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