New authors and mutli-published authors all suffer from the same drive to make their story perfect before it ever sees the light of of readers’ bedside lamps. The bad news is, no story will ever be perfect in the eyes of its author. Ask any author and they’ll tell you there is always something they could change in their story, even after it’s published and in bookstores.
I’m no different.
I recently turned in the galley for my latest inspirational romance, The Key to Charlotte. As I’m sure you know, the galley is the last step before publication, so you can be sure the story has been thoroughly edited by this step. As I went through the galley, however, there were several little things that had me thinking, “What if I used this word instead? Or maybe added a bit here, or…”
My editor would have thrown a fit had I made any of those changes in the galley stage. Creative changes only occur before submission and during edits. The point of the galley is to be sure there isn’t any missing punctuation, extra words, random weird formatting, etc. Basically, it’s to make sure the book looks pretty for readers and doesn’t have any glaring errors that make either the author or the editor cringe.
So, while going through the galley, I shoved aside those what if wonderings and concentrated on the task at hand — searching for typos. But that little internal editor is never completely silent, and I still saw things that made me wonder, even though I know the story is in good shape. My editor wouldn’t have sent it for a galley otherwise. For that matter, I never would have gotten the contract in the first place.
So, how does an author know when to let go of the manuscript and send it out into the world for readers to enjoy?
Here’s where all the writers, especially new writers, reading this post get mad at me. There is no magic number of revisions to make a manuscript perfect. There is no set rule of “you let go of the story when you reach X point or make Y change.”
It’s all about gut feeling. Every author who has submitted anything has reached a point in revising their masterpiece where they say, “It’s time.” Otherwise, nothing would ever get submitted or published. Now, experienced writers generally have a much better sense of when to quit revising and let the manuscript go out into the world than a novice. This comes with practice, rejection, and learning all the tools and craft of the trade.
New authors, especially those with their first contract, have reached the point where they felt the story was ready to submit and were ecstatic to learn they were right. But then they tend to get into the edits with their editor and wonder if the story is really good enough for readers. Maybe this scene should be tweaked or that bit of dialogue removed. What about adding…?
This is where trust comes in. It is essential for authors to trust their editors. Otherwise, instead of learning through the process and enjoying the journey toward publication, they’re constantly second-guessing each edit, each chapter, each word of their story.
Word of advice from someone who has been on both sides of the editorial desk: Trust your editor. She (or he) knows what she’s doing, because if she didn’t she wouldn’t be an editor. Even if you feel this, that, or the other might not be perfect enough or need more work or whatever, if your editor says it’s good to go, it probably is.
It’s time to let go and let your story get into the hands of readers.
Of course, if you ever have questions or concerns about your story or the edits, by all means discuss it with your editor. Goodness knows I’ve done it enough as an author and answered enough of those concerns as an editor. It’s all a part of the publication process and the learning curve for authors.
But if you’re still worried about your story, even when your editor says “We’re good to go,” remember this important piece of advice:
Your story is awesome. Otherwise, you never would have received the publishing contract that gave you an editor to work with.