A new fiction writer recently asked how long she should spend editing her manuscript before she published it. She’d been editing for the past year and felt like she’d never get it good enough to publish.
This was my answer. First – don’t publish until after you have at least one other person look it over. They should be familiar with your chosen genre and have experience in editing such. Not necessarily a family member or friend – however they may become a friend (a bonus). Second – Check out a local or regional writing/publishing resource group such as Colorado Independent Publishers Association, CIPA at http://www.cipabooks.com for a list of their service providers – editors, writing coaches, web designers, illustrators, cover designers, photographers, ebook conversion specialists, small publishers, etc. Do some research to find the correct or best person to be an editor and/or writing coach. Ask for help.
As a fiction writer, I spent years editing my first book on my own until I joined CIPA, then after six months of watching, listening, and talking with the wide variety of service providers and other authors at each meeting, I connected with my editor and writing coach. Eighteen months later I published my first book (a multiple awarding winning science fiction/fantasy crossover). Two years later my second book reached publication (also an award winner), and then three years after that, in November 2019, my third book was published. I’ve been outlining the fourth book the past two months and finally broke down and called my editor. The benefit of working with the same editor for three books is that she understands the story, sometimes better than I do, and she knows how to spur my imagination into some amazing possibilities. Two hours and ten minutes later I now have a strong idea of how to start and end the book and have some solid ideas on how to fill in the middle. I’m excited, no longer frustrated. I’m eager to begin the next project – the fourth book of the core quartet of my science fiction series.
One thing I learned with the first book is that you can edit forever and never publish and even after you publish a book you’ll always find things you wish you had done differently or better – but, if you have done due diligence to the story, the characters, and you as a writer, by getting outside input, editing and coaching, then it is probably as good as it can possibly be and you have to let go, publish it, and then with all the new skills you have learned you can start writing the next, and the next, and the next – each one will need editing by you and at least one other person. And each one will be better.
And, yes, it will cost money. Respect your time and efforts, get the third eye on your manuscript – learn how to make it better and writing the next one better will be easier. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep learning. Good luck.
When do you know your manuscript is ready for that “other” editor to take a look at it? When do you know it’s ready to be published?