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An early story I did I edited again and again to make it better. But in the end, I got the feeling the result was worse than before. Recently I tried to write (short-stories) in one go and only check for wrong spelling and grammar.

What is a good amount of editing? How should I know when to stop and simply publish the result?

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Because you're German, I can recommend you this link from Andreas Eschbach. It's about what to edit and how to edit and when to stop. But you need to have a "final version", something where you do not want to add anything. Because then the challenge is to remove things: andreaseschbach.de/schreiben/page96/page96.html –  John Smithers Nov 23 '10 at 12:05
    
Great text. Thank you for the find. And you get the good feeling, that the man who wrote this already has written novels with some success. :-) –  Mnementh Nov 23 '10 at 19:30
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Are you giving your story time to sit before you come back to it? As far as "when" to edit, after a while away is usually a good idea. Getting a little distance gives you a new perspective sometimes. –  foggyone Nov 25 '10 at 1:18

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's easy to get that feeling, but it doesn't necessarily mean the story is worse (or that it's better). For this reason, I keep all my work under revision control (I prefer git, but there are others). That way, I can actually compare any revision that has ever existed to any other (to see if it's really worse or if I'm just tired of it), I can roll back to a previous revision (if a set of changes was actually a bad idea), and most of all see what is going on with my changes (to keep from going through cycle after cycle of editing over just a few phrases, which either means other parts of the work are being ignored, or I'm "done" and just didn't feel it).

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I accepted this answer, because of the hint to use a revision-control - that could help the problem a little bit. At least I can easily switch back, if I decide later to do so. –  Mnementh Nov 22 '10 at 18:11
    
Glad I could help. :) –  HedgeMage Nov 22 '10 at 18:13

Edit it until you're comfortable with the result. If you feel that your story needs to be edited more because something was left out, or you don't like the direction that the story is taking, or whatever the reason, then edit it. If you're happy with the story, then don't edit it. After all, it's your story!

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There's no single answer for this. I recently was working on a short story that I was happy with in its first incarnation. I asked a former teacher to look over it, and he suggested a change in the style; I went with it for the sake of editing. After three days of hopelessly hacking at the story, I realized that all of the changes I made were making it worse, and what I really wanted all along was the first draft.

Moral is: don't be afraid to stick with your first draft if your edits aren't working for you.

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