There comes a point where every writer must let go of their work and trust that they can do no better at this point. It may come for you after your fifth sweep of the draft, annihilating the last of your typos. It may come for you after your fifteenth draft, when you’ve FINALLY fixed that plot hole and figured out those pesky scientific details that your readers will no longer kill you over. But there will come a point where, for the moment, you are done.
Yes. Your story is complete, your beta readers have weighed in, and you have edited with their suggestions in mind. Starting on another editing sweep will likely drive you crazy, so set the red pen down and step back.
You need time away from your story before you can come back at it with a fresh set of eyes. You will see more things that need to be corrected, since, alas, you are NOT perfect. But don’t count your last round of editing as worthless.
Though I’ve now lost count of how many times I’ve edited my first book, I will tell you it is not done. I will also tell you that each round of editing has improved my writing, and the story at large. I’m just struggling with necessary details that I am unsure of at the moment, so I’m letting the story rest. The princess stories are far more interesting at the moment.
It depends on you and your needs. If you want to self-publish, make sure your draft is ready. I suggest a second round of beta readers before moving forward. If you can afford it, I also suggest hiring an editor. Self-published authors have a bad reputation of selling books to the public that are not ready. Don’t be one of those people, but one of the others who has a book they love and they want to sell it immediately.
If that’s not for you, start researching publishers, drafting queries, and purchasing envelopes and stamps. Once you’ve heard back from all the publishers (alas, the majority will be rejections), then take another look at your story.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Since every writer is different, I can’t tell when you reach the point that your draft is ready. If you keep finding major typos every other chapter for your current draft, then you probably aren’t ready. If you don’t worry about typos, your beta readers love your book, and you feel confident, chances are at least better that you’re ready.
There will always be something that can be fixed. But as I discussed in November, there is no such thing as a perfect draft. And I suspect if you find a best-selling author and are free to question them, they will tell you of a piece in their book that they would change now.
Don’t wait until your draft is perfect. Wait until you and your story are done.
Trust me, there is a difference.