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forkWhen writing a news release or a shorter document, it’s easy for me to tell when it’s time to stop editing. It usually comes at that point when I begin to change things for change’s sake, but I’m not making the document stronger. (Like rewriting the same sentence three different ways, and it still ends up the same way.)

However, when working on a novel and dealing with 80,000+ words rather than 250, the revision process is a whole lot more encompassing. There are re-writes, revisions, re-constructed scenes, and edits upon edits. One challenge can be how to keep the story fresh when I’ve read it (what feels like) a 1,000 times, and I want to chuck the work into the trash can.

Know When to Stop

This past weekend I attended a writing intensive workshop sponsored by SCBWI-Carolinas. There, a group of writers assembled to work on novels and glean inspiration from industry professionals. One of our key speakers was Kendra Levin, senior editor with Viking Children’s Books. After putting us through a couple writing exercises, she shared publishing stories with us. As everyone in the room is awaiting publication of their first book, it was an excellent opportunity to hear likes, dislikes, and anecdotes of the person who may hold your publishing fate in her hands.

Kendra shared a story of a fellow editor who was finalizing the work of one of her authors. Down to the final round of technical edits before going to publication, the editor sent what should have been minor edits. The author, however, returned a manuscript with those changes and also a whole lot more that turns out were not needed. After something like the 10th round of intense edits, the author had become trained to make many changes. When she saw the limited number of notes from her editor, she thought it wasn’t enough so she made unnecessary edits that unfortunately set the process back.

“When you change carrots to potatoes, then you know it’s time to put a lid on it.” Kendra Levin, Senior Editor Viking Children’s Books.

Potatoes_and_carrots_So if you’re getting to the point of merely fiddling around with your work because you really can’t find anything else to change and you’re not making the work better, Stop. While it is often true that revisions and editing can go on forever, sometimes you just have to put a fork in it. You are done.

Enjoy the moment, because the next project is about to begin.