When To Stop Editing
The question is, how do you break the cycle and go down the right road? Or more importantly, how do you know when it's time to take that road to submission? Going it alone without help of any kind will almost always result in taking a left, right, or going back instead of forward. Or worse, it can result in going forward when your manuscript isn't ready. I've been guilty of both.
What do you do if you're going it alone as so many writers do? You've heard me say this before, attend conferences, workshps, retreats, any place where you can improve your craft. This will help build your confidence and prepare you so you will realize when you and your manuscript are ready. Can't afford to in this tight economy? Don't worry, there are other ways. Join a writer's group. Can't find one in your neighborhood? Join an online writer's community. Make friends there, start to assemble a critique group. I recommend Scribblerati but there are many great writers communities out there to choose from. With the advances in technology~email, Twitter, Facebook, Skype~you don't have to meet in person to have a critique group.
I have a wonderful critique group as many of you know, the Scribe Sisters, who help me in getting my manuscript polished and ready to go to my agent. Aside from them I have a five step editing process.
Step #1 A mini-edit. I handwrite everything first then put it in the computer that night or the next day and fix minor things like not enough description or grammar issues.
Step #2 Once the manuscript is completely done I do a read through edit of it on my computer and make note of any story issues I need to fix later. I also do a spellcheck and fix any grammar issues I see.
Step #3 I print the entire manuscript and take a red pen to it, fixing everything from character arc issues, to spelling, grammar, names, and description issues, to adding and deleting. Then I enter it into my computer.
Step #4 My critique group helps me with key chapters. The inciting incident, plot point 1, midpoint, plot point 2, and the climax. Then I enter changes into the computer.
Step #5 (this is a new one for me and if you don't do it, you MUST! I've discovered this step is worth the printed manuscript's weight in gold) I read the entire manuscript aloud to a beta reader/listener. And no, it is not my cat. I read to a person. You'd be surprised how much you catch this way when you're worried about what someone will think. I enter changes into the computer after every chapter I read.
Once I'm through this process I know I'm ready to send my manuscript out. Whatever method you use, just be sure you're moving forward. A stagnant writer is an unpublished writer.