It never ends.
When writing a book, I first get the words in the computer. I forgot who said it, but this initial writing phase is a “regurgitation” of my ideas. It just comes out. And then I walk away.
When I return to the book, anywhere from one month to one year later, I re-read the novel electronically, editing the story as I go, moving, deleting, and adding text. At this point, I only correct typos as I stumble upon them. I don’t go looking for them. When I’ve completely re-written the story, I walk away again.
After allowing a month for the plot to fade from my mind, I print the novel. This is when the power editing begins.
- The first editing pass through the printed copy is dedicated to the story; plot, dialogue, character depth, backstory, etc.
- In the second pass, I focus on the finer details; word choice, grammar, punctuation.
- During the third pass, I have to look at every quotation mark, comma, period, colon, and semi-colon. And I have to find the instances when they’re missing.
This third pass is where I’m at right now in my latest novel, tentatively titled Alone. And this is the point when I think the editing will never end. Every time I read the story, I find a period when it should be a comma, or I find a missing comma. Sure, this is logical, but it begins to get tiresome. How many mistakes did I make? And why do I keep finding them?
The problem is an effect of dilution. At every pass through the book, I find and correct typos. During the first two passes through the printed copy, the typos are a greater proportion of the total number of words, so they are easier to find. In the third pass, the missing puctuation marks are a much smaller fraction of the total, so they are harder to find. I have to look carefully. And I have to ignore the story while I’m looking. That’s difficult for me, because I find myself reading the book instead of editing it.
I believe that I will need a fourth pass through Alone to find all of the errors and polish the story.
And that will just get me to the point when it can be read and reviewed by others, long before it will ever be published. After review, the whole re-writing and editing process will begin again.
It never ends.