When to Stop Editing Your Manuscript

Once your manuscript is complete, you may find yourself reading and rereading it, constantly making tweaks or rearranging small pieces of the text or rewording your never-quite-right prose. It may seem like it will never be perfect. Guess what. It won’t. But it’ll never be done either unless you let it go. 

Endlessly and needlessly reworking your content will not do you or your potential readers a bit of good. At some point, you have to stop, and it’s hard to know when you’ve gotten there. Here are a couple of things to consider when you find you can’t quite leave well enough alone.

  • Quality
  • Perspective (yours, not the book’s) 

The ROI of continuing the edit

As you go back through your book, fine-tuning your content for the hundredth time, consider the edits you find yourself making. Are they making your book better, or are they just making it different? Editing for quality is one thing, but when your changes are no longer meaningful, you may be doing your manuscript and your readers (not to mention your editor!) a great disservice.

The quality and cadence of your prose are of utmost importance, but if the majority of your edits come from a thesaurus, consider what Steven Pinker said about these often useful references: “Do not get carried away with the destructive potential of this tool!”

Get some distance

At some point in the process, you’re going to need to change the way you view your content. Step away from it for a while.

Are you thinking of yourself as a writer or a reader? It’s important to be able to do both. Distancing yourself for a few weeks or a month can give you a fresh perspective on your manuscript. By looking at the text as a reader, you can discern whether the changes you are making actually help improve the text. 

Finally, have you considered that your book is ready? As close as you are to the content, it’s hard to be able to step back and look at it objectively. It’s also a huge emotional risk to release your book into the world—or at least on to the next stage of getting it ready for the world. But don’t despair; your editor will help you evaluate whether the book is off the mark or right on target, but first, you have to let go.


Are you done editing your book (or not sure whether you should be)? Even if it’s not quite right, we can help with the last bit of polishing it needs before publication. Contact us at contact@greenleafbookgroup.com, or visit our submissions page. If you have any questions for Greenleaf Editorial about the editing process or your project, tweet us @GreenleafBookGr.