Congratulations! You’ve done it – written a novel, revised it, asked for others’ opinions, revised some more, and more, and more. Sound familiar? So when does the revisions stop? How can you move forward if you don’t stop revising your novel?
Like most writers, knowing when to stop tinkering with your manuscript can be a challenge. In fact, it’s almost as hard as actually writing a book. And this is a struggle that visits most writers. They spend so many years unnecessarily polishing work that should have hit the shelves a long time ago. Truth is, if you worry too much about getting it exactly right, your book may never see the light of day.
As an aspiring author, revision-mania is the sort of rut you should avoid falling victim to when writing a book. You have to know when it is time to let go and move forward. Here are some trigger signs that’ll let you decide when it’s time to stop revising your manuscript:
- No Significant Changes Required
After writing a book, it’s time to stop revising when you realize that you are no longer making significant changes. For example, if you keep finding mistakes every time you revisit your manuscript, then by all means, keep revising. However, if you find that you are only making minor tweaks that have no notable impact (e.g. changing a word here and a sentence there), then you have done all you can do and it’s time to move on.
- No More Excuses (Concrete Reasoning)
You will know that it is time to stop making revisions after writing a book when you can no longer find concrete reasons to excuse the revisions. Most authors enter into a cycle of endless revisions because they cannot help but feel that ‘something’s still wrong’. If you can quantify those emotions, possibly even determining that the pacing is off or the structure is poor, then you have good reasons to keep revising. However, if you explore your work and you cannot find a single concrete issue with it, then you are simply afraid. Such fear and doubt are normal. However, do not let them stop you from completing your manuscript.
- Objective Consensus
Consensus matters when writing a book. If you’ve already received a consensus of objective opinions and you’re still not satisfied then something’s wrong. It’s understandable if you still have some doubts after your manuscript has received glowing reviews from friends and family. However, if every professional critique or editor that has read through your material thinks it’s ready for submission, then you are probably stalling. If you are the only one who thinks your manuscript is lacking, then you need to step away for a while and re-read it at a later date, with fresh, less biased eyes. You might finally see what everyone else sees.
The passage of time can also play a role in knowing when to stop revising your manuscript. It’s true that there is no predetermined amount of time that an author is expected to take to revise their book. For some authors, a year is too short. For others, three months is too long.
But if you have been revising your manuscript for a noticeably long period of time (over a year), then it’s definitely time to start questioning whether or not you are really adding any value. Most publishers will agree that a year of continuous revision is too long, especially for an average sized book.
The most ostensible sign that you should stop revising your manuscript is when you start to lose your focus. If you find yourself daydreaming about your next idea and the other stories you want or plan to tell, it may be an indication that your heart is no longer attached to the manuscript you are presently working on. At this point, it is only logical to part ways with the manuscript in question. Publish your story and move on to those other ideas that are calling to you.
Deciding when to publish after writing a book can send new authors into a paralyzing frenzy. Most experienced authors will tell that you have to trust your gut when it comes to determining whether or not your manuscript is ready for submission. But if you’re still faced with this dilemma even after reading and re-reading your manuscript, then you may want to seek professional guidance. When you get the green light by professionals in the industry, don’t stall – just publish!