Editing: how much is too much?

Currently preoccupied with ‘final’ reviews of two of my projects, I find myself assailed by a question relating to editing work – namely, when is enough, enough?

It is, perhaps, easier to define what is insufficient – especially when, in the first instance, no editing at all is unacceptable! So what happens when you first revisit your work, ideally having laid it aside for a short while? If you change nothing, then I suggest you’re not being critical or clinical enough; no-one gets it right first time! On the other hand, if you find yourself changing what seems a fair proportion of your text (and only you can decide what that is) then it is most likely that you’ll need to go round the block at least one more time.

But when to stop? Perhaps when you start reverting the last edits you made? Or when you’re fussing over the odd comma? Though instinct should play at part in knowing, the hardest part can be making the decision to stop editing and move on. Sometimes you just have to let a piece go and fend for itself, even if you think that it’s not quite ‘right’…

I’m editing a raft of poems at the moment. Some I haven’t touched in the last three reviews, so I’m happy with those; others I’m still tweaking the odd word – and not quite satisfactorily. I feel those are the ones I need to cut loose, settle for ‘good enough’, or ‘imperfect’.