When to Stop Editing

It’s tough enough to start writing a page, a chapter, a complete novel. But what’s even more difficult is to know when to stop editing your work … and it’s as important as writing the entire manuscript.

Trust Yourself

download (3)You have an inner voice – I call mine Beverley 1 (and this other Beverley is much cleverer than me). I trust that other ‘person’ implicitly. You might have other names for the inner voice: gut, instinct, feelings, urges, intuition. Trust it.

Having said that, that inner voice can only be fostered and cultivated by reading, reading, reading and writing, writing, writing. If you have a piece of your earliest writing, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Your voice will have matured, the way you string words together will have improved, your choice of metaphors and similes will be less clichéd and so on. That inner voice will show you your weaknesses and yes, your strengths too. It will also let you know when you’ve done enough. Trust it.

Enough is Enough

Leave tinkering to the tinkers. If you have the perfect Goldilocks i.e. it is just right – leave it be. Chances are your goldilocksintuition is correct. If you want to save deleted scenes go right ahead, but save them in another file. Once you are rich and famous and have a magnificent website that thousands of fans click onto, you can showcase those deleted scenes and your fans will love you. Until then, leave well alone.

Recognize the Good, Ditch the Bad

Sometimes, as an author, you’ll find your story just doesn’t work. Something seems to be inherently wrong with it. No amount of plotting, planning, changing or editing can make the darned thing work. Time to let it go. Start fresh. Look for other ideas that are workable. You job as a writer is to come up with something unique, fresh and yes, marketable. If it smells like barf, it probably is.

Scrutinize All Parts of Your Novel

A novel must contain certain essential elements for it to work such as plot, setting, characters, dialogue and conflict of course. Does your novel have this? Analyze your work, pretend to be a coroner and do a little post mortem on the story. Are your characters lively, interesting? Is your plot gripping? Honest? Does your conflict work? If yes, it’s time to stop fiddling and work on your query and synopsis.

Listen to Your Readers

listenIf five out of the six impartial (family doesn’t count) and trustworthy people who read your story point to the same problem – you have a problem. If they all concur that the story is good to go, it’s probably time to lay down your pen. Leave your novel alone for a few weeks. I find this painfully difficult, but in truth, it works. You will be able to come back with a fresh and discerning eye.

An Agent or Publisher May Think Differently

Hooray! You have an agent or a publisher. All those worries you had before will probably return to haunt you. Agents and publishers are notorious for changing or editing a novel to suit what they deem to be correct. It is up to you to decide/argue/reason/debate with the agent or publisher as to how the story should unravel.


2016 Spring Writing Classes for Beginners and Advanced

Creative Writing 101 – Tues. afternoons April 12 – June 28 in Oakville

Crafting Your Novel – Wed. afternoons April 13 – June 29 in Oakville

Crafting Your Novel – Thurs. afternoons April 14 – June 30 in Oakville

For more details click on the links or email beverleyburgessbell@gmail.com

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