Let’s admit it, you could change your work in progress (WIP) endlessly. Sentences can be rewritten in a bunch of different ways. You can spend days choosing the perfect word to describe one moment. Paragraphs and scenes can be reordered, added, deleted, and amped up on crack.
So how do you know when your book is ready to publish either traditionally or independently? You look at your WIP and you know it is the best you can make it. There is no little voice in your head saying, “You know you should look at your dialog and spruce it up a bit,” or saying “You should rethink X, Y, and Z.”
There are always changes that can be made, there are in the best works, but the little voice in your head, your inner editor, does go quiet with satisfaction eventually. If an editor has reviewed your book and your inner editor is quiet, it’s time to publish and stop fiddling and tweaking.
I have going over my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream, again. I am focusing on POV and targeting sense words (smell, taste, hear, saw, touched). I am also watching sentences that begin with “I.” Fighting for a Chance to Dream is written in first person present tense, so I am careful to vary the sentences, so they don’t all start with I did this or I did that, which gets very annoying and boring.
When editing, it’s important to pick one or two things to focus on as you go through the manuscript. If you don’t, the task becomes overwhelming. After completing a first draft, the first round of editing focuses on major structure and story development. I read the manuscript start to finish (I print it out because it’s easier to keep notes) and make notes in the margins about those two things.
The second round of edits focuses on each scene making sure there is a goal, conflict, and disaster and in the sequels making sure there is a reaction, dilemma, and a decision.
The third round of edits focuses on Motivation Reaction Units making sure at all levels (scene, paragraph, and sentence) I have set the MRU up like a row of dominos.
The fourth round looks at character arc and development of the main and minor characters. Characters need to change and grow throughout the story not just at the climax. Changes and realizations need to be initiated by something with enough weight to actually make the change in a person. A change to a person’s beliefs and values is a process not an instant reaction.
The fifth round focuses on POV and senses making sure that I’m showing where I should be and summarizing/telling when I should be.
Once I’ve finished all of these, I send it out to beta readers asking if there are any holes in the story or major questions that go unanswered. I ask them to mark parts that are boring or confusing. I usually take the manuscript to an office supply story and have it spiral bound, so my reader can go through it like a book.
I make more changes based off what my beta readers suggest. I try to take an objective stance when I get feedback from others about my writing although it can be r hard to hear. Sometimes it is best to just listen, keep notes, and allow yourself a day or two to mull it over. I have found that their suggestions are worth listening to and much of the time taking even if it means killing parts of the manuscript that I love. I just save them in a separate file that way my darlings are never dead.