Is there such a thing as over-editing?

I’ve been thinking about this for a little while now. As it says in my blog description, I am currently in the editing phase of my first draft, meaning that the draft is finished and now I’m going through it chapter by chapter to improve things and making sure the plot goes smoothly. Therefore, I am nowhere near the danger that the above title implies, but I’m just the kind of person who likes to worry in advance.

So what do I mean by ‘over-editing’?

I imagine a scenario where a writer is working on their seventh or eighth draft and they’re still not ready to get the manuscript to beta readers. They’re still finding faults within every chapter, changing up scenes to make them better but only end up making it worse. The even more nightmarish scenario here would be that the writer in question changes things that are already great in the pretense of ‘editing’. They’re stuck in a neverending loop of self-criticism.

I guess my question is this; how do we know for sure when a chapter is as good as it’s going to get? How can we stop ourselves from being so nitpicky that we end up destroying that which is actually good?

Being a writer usually means being a perfectionist. We can’t help ourselves, we strive for perfection in everything we create – be it characters, plots, or lore. A quick glance at the writing community over at Twitter will confirm that.

The annoying thing is that I know there’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to art. That’s the number one rule; art is subjective. It’s in the eyes of the beholder. Despite this knowledge, writers all over the world continue to yearn for that ever-elusive satisfaction of perfection. Will that be my lot, too? I suppose I’ll have to wait and see… and try not to worry too much in the meantime.

2 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as over-editing?

  1. I’m currently on draft four of my first novel and it’s hard to explain but it just feels right now to send it to my beta readers. It’s nerve wracking and part of me doesn’t want to do it but I’m doing it anyway. Looking forward to following your progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing that with me! I hope to find that je ne sais quoi-moment too someday – when it just feels right and ready.

      Like

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