The Writer Doth Edit Too Much

This should be subtitled:  Never attend a writing conference when you are in the midst of editing a manuscript.  You. May.  Learn. Too. Much.

My new release, Measure Twice, Love Once, is due out on April 21.  (Yes, please preorder it on Amazon!)  When I set the preorder date, I thought I’d have plenty of time to complete my edits.  (My muse is shaking her head.  Foolish, foolish writer…)  After all, I was well into my final changes, and while my energy flagged, I thought five days of hanging out with other writers, talking about writing nonstop, would be the perfect way to push the work over the top.

Ready for upload, here I come.Measure twice, Love Once Yvonne Kohano

For those of you who don’t know, when you set a preorder-eligible release date for Amazon Kindle, you are required to upload the final version of your manuscript 10 days prior to the release date.  April 21 became April 11 – at 12:00 am Eastern time.  That’s 9 pm on April 10 for me.  If you miss the upload date/time, you are prohibited from using preorder FOR A YEAR. 

I told myself this would be no problem at all.  I’d even have a chance to market more widely, so I’d have a nice fat number of preorders and a great big ranking bump on day one.

<<SIGH>>  I LOVED the Crimelandia conference here in Portland, sponsored by West Coast Crime.  Great authors talking about their processes, characters, plotting, suspense tricks – everything.  Inspiring featured interviews.  Lots of yak-yak time with other writers, discussing what we learned and how EAGER we are to get back to our writing lives and apply those ideas.  I couldn’t wait to put my hands on Measure and give it the final touches I thought it needed.  (My muse just left for Starbuck’s – she knows how this ends…)

Bright and early the day after the conference ended, I sat down and began at the beginning (because it’s a very good place to start).  Increase suspense here.  Leave a better clue there.  Make the protagonists’ issues more vague, only to spring the big reveals down the road.  Make their motivations clear, except when they shouldn’t be, because that would give something away.

I can’t tell you how many times I went through the full manuscript post-conference, because I stopped counting at eleven.  I went through it perhaps twice as many times, in excruciating detail.  All 92,000 words.  (At least, that’s where it ended up.  There were more to start with.)  I went through it so often that I wasn’t sure at times if something had already happened to the characters, or was about to happen.  I reached a point where I confused myself.  What would the readers experience, if this was what I was feeling?

Mostly, I stressed out over the loaming preorder upload date and the sad condition I now deemed the book to be in.

ticking bomb - paid - thinkstock

My muse took pity on me and smashed me on the head with her cast iron skillet to get the message through.  I didn’t need to apply every single one of the things I learned at the conference, not all at once and not all in this book.  In fact, I was editing too much.  Yes, too much, until I risked changing the voice so that it wasn’t mine anymore.

I learned many things at the conference.  I learned even more about myself as a writer when I struggled with what I thought was a well-written story to begin with.  Yes, I did make improvements, including tightening the prose and improving the pacing.  As my hubby points out, though, you have to stop at some point.  For me, that means stopping when I feel like it’s balanced, ready and gives me a feeling of satisfaction.  I finally reached that point – finally.

And yes, it’s uploaded – ahead of schedule I might add!

Dear readers, if – nay, WHEN – you read Measure Twice, Love Once, send me an email to tell me how I did. 

And writer friends, please share a comment about how you deal with the risk of over-editing.  I’d love to learn your tricks.  I never want to go through this kind of stress again!

Now I sure hope my muse brings me back a soy mocha…

4 Comments

  • Pearl R. Meaker

    April 9, 2015

    Over editing is a real problem. J.R.R. Tolkien drove his publisher crazy because he wouldn’t/couldn’t quit editing and tweeking the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

    • Yvonne Kohano

      April 10, 2015

      It makes me feel better that I’m not the only one struggling to stop the editing merry-go-round! Thanks for your insight! Yvonne

  • Jessa Slade

    April 10, 2015

    “A work is never completed except by some accident such as weariness, satisfaction, the need to deliver, or death: for, in relation to who…is making it, it can only be one stage in a series of inner transformations.” ~ Paul Valery, French author

    A work might be finished, but THE work never is. Happy writing and rewriting! And congrats on the soon-to-be book!

    • Yvonne Kohano

      April 11, 2015

      So true, Jessa! The work is never done – or the learning! Happy writing, and thanks for the congrats! Yvonne