Someone asked me the other day if a book can have "too many" edits for its own good. Here's my response.
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There is no such thing as "too many" edits for a book. Every time you go through editing, you're changing your book, edging it closer toward perfection (an impossible destination, by the way, but still a mandatory pursuit!). That means you're doing your job as a writer. That may include putting your book through three edits. Four. Ten. Twenty. It really doesn't matter. If the book hasn't yet been published, every time you think about it is an opportunity for another edit and more improvements. PROVIDING …
- You know what the hell you're doing as an editor and not simply mucking around aimlessly, which could result in making your book worse.
- Your book is still far from being as close to "perfect" as you'd like.
- You have ample time and opportunity to dig into it once again—not a simple or a quick task.
I speak from expeience here. I'm both a ninety-book conventionally published author in virtually all genres plus a writer of thousands of short articles, stories, and scripts. I'm also a professionally trained and experienced editor of books, magazines, newspapers, and Websites. Whenever I have an opportunity to review one of my books before sending it out, whether for the first time or the fortieth, I take it. And I edit that book again. And again. And again. And each time I edit it, I make it better. If you doubt me, you'd better stop to consider whether or not you really have the chops to be a writer.
But will your book ever be "perfect," even though that should be every writer's goal in life? No. Nothing in life is perfect. The closest any of us can hope to come is nearly perfect. Which means the best book we can possibly create at that point in time, even though, once we get there, we'll still continue climbing the mountain.
So, do you continue editing a book forever? Yes, if that's an option open to you. No, if the book has been picked up by a conventional advance-paying publisher and is slated for publication. Once that happens, you have to give up the ghost, so to speak. Let your baby go. It will sink or swim on its own. At that point, there's nothing more you can do about it, so why fret?
Oh, and one more thing. Your editorial "passes" should be spaced far enough apart to give you a "fresh set of eyes." Don't read through you book and edit it every day for a month. Rather, edit it; put it aside for a few days, a week, or whatever it takes, and then go back to review it. Only by letting a little time pass between edits, like water under a bridge, will you be able to offer the greatest improvements to your opus.
Just my thoughts on the matter. Hope they help. And, if you're not sure whether or not your edited book is ready for Prime Time, I'll be happy to give you my professional opinion. Gratis! Just get in touch with me through my Website, and I'll get back to you promptly. Until then …
Smoke if you've got 'em.
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D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack. It's free; it's entertaining; it's informative, and it runs weekly. Well, almost weekly. Occasionally weekly. Sometimes weekly. (Hey, he does his best!)