As I work my way through round five of edits on my first fiction manuscript, I keep asking myself … am I there yet?

And I never quite seem to be. There’s always one more round of edits to address.

Stop Editing Already: When It’s Time to Put Down the Pen and Submit

I work on this manuscript around a ton of other things in my life, including a full time job. So I’m lucky to get an hour to look at it a day. And I’m a slow writer. So, so slow.

But still. I’ve been in full editing mode for over a year. How many edits can a girl do?

Finally I just had to look my editing problem straight in the eye and ask the big question: How do I know when it’s time to stop editing already?

And luckily, I came up with some answers. It’s time to stop editing when …

… When you can’t tell what’s good and what’s bad anymore

Sometimes you work on something so hard and for so long, you can’t tell what’s what anymore. When you reach this point, step away from the computer. Congratulations, you’ve edited so hard you’re no longer qualified to edit your own work.

Don’t worry, it happens to all of us at some point. The most important thing is that you recognize the situation you’re in. In this case, submit your work to another person to edit it before submitting for publication.

… When you give up

If you’ve been editing so long you’re ready to throw in the towel, why not take a break and submit your story to an editor look at it? You know, before you take a lighter to it.

Someone with a fresh perspective may be able to point out options you hadn’t thought of. Or even better, their comments about what’s already working may be just what you need to regain your confidence.

… When your changes stop being meaningful

“Dirty” or “muddy”? Is this sentence better here or in the next paragraph? “A” or “the”?

When your edits reach a point where you’re sweating over one tiny thing after another, all you’re doing is holding yourself back.

Put down that pen. It’s time to start submitting your work.

… When you don’t know what you’re editing for anymore

There’s all sorts of edits to run your work through: A content edit, a copy edit, a line edit, the edit to see if this new scene I just added it working, the edit to ensure detail consistency—you get the idea.

So if you’re editing your work without any goal left to review, kick back my friend, because you are ready to submit.

Now that you’ve got these guidelines … are you ready to stop editing?

Personally, I found that my manuscript isn’t at this stage yet—I still have a few items on my list that I know require further editing. But knowing what it will look like when I hit the end, well, that’s a night light at the end of the tunnel.

How close to done is your manuscript?


Share a paragraph from a piece of work that’s got you stuck in the comments—and be sure to help others with their works too!

Emily Wenstrom
By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, a sci-fi and fantasy author whose first novel Mud will release in March 2016.
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