I have several writer friends who have been writing the same book over and over. The manuscript is finished, has been for years. But it’s never good enough. They keep rewriting…and editing…and rewriting…and (you get the picture).
I won’t try to analyze the psychology behind that, but my advice: At some point you’ve got to STOP. You’ve told the story. It’s either good enough, or it isn’t. Continuing to rewrite is not going to make it the next Girl on the Train. You can edit it into oblivion, rewrite it until the cows come home, but after awhile it becomes an excuse not to send out your work; not to face rejection.
To be sure, most of us have books we’ve written that are stuffed in boxes or drawers, never again to see the light of day. Those are usually our first two or three books. Books written when our grasp of the craft was in its embryo stage. The reward of those books is not in public accolades or great reviews, but in the learning experience they were for the writer. If you, as a writer, are working on one like that, recognize it for what it is. Put it away. *Maybe you can revisit it years down the road when your writing skills are better.
If you keep at it, there will come a time when you’re convinced that this IS the book. When you know that the story, and your ability to tell through the written word, needs to be heard, needs to be read.
In that case, don’t let your quest for perfection get in the way of the possible. Set limits on the number of times you will rewrite, the number of edits you’ll consider.
By learning the hard way, here is a process I’ve developed: (1) I try to write 1,000 words a day. (2) I start each day by reading, editing and rewriting the 1,000 words I’ve written the day before. (3) I submit portions of my book to my writers group for critique. (4) I rewrite based on their critique. (5) When the manuscript is finished, I send it to a half dozen carefully chosen beta readers. (6) Sixty to 90 days later I rewrite based on the feedback from the beta readers. (7) Then I send it to my line editor/proofreader. (8) I do a final rewrite based on her feedback.
Now the manuscript is finally ready so the writer can query agents or seek a publisher. Is the manuscript perfect? Probably not, but if you are lucky enough to get an agent and/or a publisher, they will tell you what is “perfect” and you will rewrite again.
Getting published is such a subjective endeavor. Your manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be good enough to catch one person’s attention.
*The Reaper is such a book. I wrote it the first time in 2012. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. Five years later, five years smarter, I rewrote it. The Reaper is being published and will be released in June. In the opinion of those who have read it, it is (dare I say it?) phenomenal.
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