Hey there, I hope your weekend was fantastic! Earlier this week someone asked an interesting question that left me mulling it over, and asking how I would answer it. The question is, of course, writing related. They asked:
Can you over edit?
Huh, well then, I never really thought about that. Can one over edit? On one hand, I thought, of course not. I mean all you are doing is tweeking your piece to make it better. There is always room for improvement, right?
On the other hand, I thought at some point you need to be satisfied with your work and call it complete.
I think as writers, we can always spend time fixing stuff in our work. Let’s be real, I could spend days changing words and structures of my sentences. I can always go deeper into a character’s psyche to expose a little more. The question really made me think.
What I finally decided was over editing is impossible, but how do I know when to stop now becomes the question. Learning when to stop is probably one of the hardest things we need as writers must do. When we stop editing is when we are just making our piece different. If your edits will improve the piece deepen it or correct errors in plot, structure, grammar etc. it is time to edit. If we are simply saying it differently or resculpting a perfectly good scene we will never be done. If your edits are only making the piece slightly different and not correcting an error in one of the major categories of editing please, dear friend, put down your pen and be happy.
Writers are known to lean a bit toward the perfectionist nature. We may need to learn that changing the text is not editing, it is seeking something you will never find. I don’t want to imply you should settle for a story or piece, but be sure to ask are these edits just changing the words not the story and not bettering what I have on the page? If so, you have my permission to call it done. Not that you need my permission, but if you need someone’s permission, you have it!