26 January 2012

How Many Edits Does It Take?

How many edits does it take to finish a novel after the first draft is completed?

Much like the elusive question, "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?" this is a question that may never be answered. But there really is not a right answer, and the answer will vary depending on the author.

There are certain authors who subscribe to the "look through [one aspect] in the first edit, and change [another aspect] in the second edit, and so on" camp. I'm not one of these. I simply work my way from start to finish, and then let it set for a little while, and then repeat. I'll often times put in electronic notes for myself, to review the next time around, but I'll do this at the same time as I'm working on correcting typos and grammatical issues.

I've also seen some authors who think that short stories shouldn't be edited at all (or perhaps a cursory spelling and grammar check). I personally think this is crazy, because even the best author is going to make a major snafu from time to time, and taking the extra night to make sure isn't going to make or break your writing career.

Ultimately, my edits are finished when I feel I've done the best job I can, and then I send it off to the publisher or start formatting it for the self-publishing gig. Only you as the author can best judge when it's ready, and hopefully you've honed your skills enough to have a good idea when that should be. At the moment, I'm working on final polish edits on Death Brings the Victory. And I've already decided that this is going to be the last one.

So, feel free to comment...do you subscribe to a different plan for edits?


  1. Sounds like you and I edit very similarly. I have always thought the multiple pass to look for different things sounded so...tedious. I suppose transcribing it from the notebook counts as one pass. I do make a few changes then. Once I'm all done, I'll let it sit for a while, then read it through again and decide what needs to go or stay or be added. Then I send it out for critique. Then I'll go over it with all the critiquers' comments in front of me. Then let it sit again. Then one more read through for proofreading and polish, and then I usually feel it's ready. Good luck with Death Brings the Victory.

  2. The issue I have is that limiting yourself to only looking for specific things means that by the time you get to the fourth or fifth pass, you're likely going to miss a lot that you've been reading over and over again.

    When I used to transcribe from hand to the computer, that was always my first "unofficial" edit.

  3. Hard for me to say since I'm a cycle through and edit as I go type of writer. But once I'm satisfied with a piece, if I'm serious about it I'll have some beta readers go through and I'll edit one more time after that. But eventually you have to just say this is it and let it go. :)

  4. Always important to have beta readers involved...I always have them on my novel-length pieces. I think about 8 times out of 10, I do so with my short stories.

    Thanks for stopping by!


I love comments, and do my best to answer everyone who stops by...