I can admit it – I’m addicted to editing. I’ve rewritten the first chapter of one of my novels so many times that all of the versions start to blur together. Sometimes the changes are relatively minor, but I can’t help thinking of better and better ways to begin, and end up with a completely different opening scene. I’ve added and deleted prologues, and added an epilogue only to question whether it disrupts the flow of the primary narrative.
So my question is, how do you know when your story is good enough? I think I’ll always come up with new ideas that I want to incorporate, but unless I want to end up with one unfinished manuscript at the end of my life, at some point I have to stop and move on.
When I reach this point, I know I have to share my story with people who I trust. They will inevitably have suggestions of their own, but I can tell by the type of feedback whether or not I’m close. When you hear that an entire character isn’t working, or a section / aspect of the book is slow or doesn’t make sense, I keep rewriting. Or if several readers are taking forever to finish the story, that’s a red light – obviously it isn’t holding their interest enough to finish quickly. But when the suggestions start to get minor, details that need to be sharpened, I make the edits and move on.
So I know it’s time to finally let go of that first chapter. Time to close the file, admit it’s done and start dreaming up new worlds.