Knowing when it's ready.

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I am curious how people decide when their writing is ready for publishing or when it needs more editing. Thanks.
 

lizmonster

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This is probably a very large subject, but fundamentally, if I'm at the point where I'm doing nothing but shoving individual words around, it's as done as I can get it.

But before that the whole thing goes to my crit partners, and sometimes bits of it go up here on SYW. Other people always see issues that I don't, but generally once I recognize them I can figure out how to fix them.
 
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Woollybear

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I am curious how people decide when their writing is ready for publishing or when it needs more editing. Thanks.
I believe you are writing nonfiction. Self help or memoir or something like this. ?

I ask because that will affect the answer.

But I'd say there are several things you can try while sorting out what is 'done.' You can have someone else read it, or parts of it, and give you feedback. You can compare to similar books, side by side. You can close the file and refuse to look at it for a month and then see what new issues pop out when you open it up again. You can print it out book-style and read it through that way. You can run it through a grammar/punctuation checking software.

If you do a bunch of these sorts of things and find ever-diminishing returns, you may be close to finished.
 

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I am curious how people decide when their writing is ready for publishing or when it needs more editing. Thanks.
It depends a lot on where the writer is at in terms of experience and craft.

Someone with a dozen trade published books may well finish their revisions and send it to their agent without anyone else reading it. Someone who has written half a dozen books but hasn't yet got an agent for any of them will probably want beta readers to give some feedback, because they know they haven't yet gotten over the bar from 'good' to 'good enough'. A brand new writer who has just written their first story ever often thinks their work is great, fabulous, stupendous, and has no idea that it's....not.

It's a learning experience. As you improve in the craft, you're more aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, and you've learnt over time how to correct for those weaknesses, so you need less external feedback.

Me, when I've rewritten and revised and polished to the point that I'm not able to make it any better, I will generally seek beta readers. If it's a short story on a tight timeline, I might submit it to an editor without getting anyone else's feedback, but that's uncommon for me and I'm well aware that my chances of getting a rejection letter are much higher when I do this.
 

ChaseJxyz

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When does a painter know their painting is done? There's always more paint you can put on there, maybe something you can remove and re-do and try to get it to look better.

This question is kind of philosophical because there's no right answer. Writing is an art, and art is entirely subjective, so there will never be a version of your piece that 100% of people will say is 100% perfect. You will never be able to make something perfect, and perfect is the enemy of done. What you make has to be "good enough."

But of course, what does THAT mean? No agent/editor is expecting a 100% perfect manuscript (that's why publishers have editors), but they ARE expecting something that you've clearly put effort into. All the big, obvious problems need to be fixed. You have to run spellcheck. But as others have said, when you're doing really minor stuff like word order, you're putting Way Too Much Effort into getting that last 1% finished.

Do you do any other creative endeavors? I also do plastic models, which have a few major steps: cutting out the pieces and assembling the thing, priming/spray painting big pieces certain colors, painting small details, applying decals with tweezers, and applying a final topcoat. When I first started, I would agonize over really small details; this one model has a panel that's supposed to be holes for missiles to come out of. So I would paint the inside red, notice it wasn't totally filled in or a little would go up the inside lip of it, remove the paint, and then try again. And I kept doing this until I realized...what is this accomplishing? You're only going to notice these imperfections if it's an inch from your face...and no one was going to look at the model like that. I was just wasting time and making myself frustrated for no real reason!

You need to step back and look at your work as a whole sometimes. Putting a finished draft down and coming back to it a few weeks (or months) later helps you look at it with new eyes and see big flaws...and make you forget about the tiny ones that ultimately don't matter.
 
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LisaH46

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There's a lot steps to revision you can go through, like specifically looking for grammar issues, looking at one character everywhere he shows up and making sure it makes sense, sometimes I like to search for a certain word or phrase that I know I favor and look through how many times I used it and how that could be improved. I also liked the idea of putting it away from a month and then taking another look. After that it's beta readers and possibly editors. At some point you have to just decide it's done though!
 

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I believe you are writing nonfiction. Self help or memoir or something like this. ?

I ask because that will affect the answer.

But I'd say there are several things you can try while sorting out what is 'done.' You can have someone else read it, or parts of it, and give you feedback. You can compare to similar books, side by side. You can close the file and refuse to look at it for a month and then see what new issues pop out when you open it up again. You can print it out book-style and read it through that way. You can run it through a grammar/punctuation checking software.

If you do a bunch of these sorts of things and find ever-diminishing returns, you may be close to finished.
Yes, I am writing self-help and autobiographical types of writing.
 
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Carrie

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My hunch is that, if you're not sure if it's ready, it's not. I write a weekly column and I've learned whenever I hear myself saying, "There's nothing wrong with that!" there always is.
 

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