When to stop editing and just ship it

When this comic made the rounds on Facebook, the resonance it generated was astounding, though perhaps it shouldn’t have been.

It just happened to show up in my feed right after I sent my manuscript to my publisher. And yes, letting go was hard, especially after I found a typo in what was supposed to have been “just one more quick glance to double-check the formatting.”

How many more such typos linger in the ms? No telling.

It really took an effort of will to stop and, as Seth Godin would say, ship it.

Am I advocating slipshod work? Of course not. Editors appreciate writers who make the manuscript as good as possible before turning it in. What I’m saying is, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Perfection is a good goal, but it’s almost impossible to reach on one’s own. There is a point of diminishing return, when investing more time will not produce a significant improvement. Could I have taken another three to four days and proofread my ms again? Yes. I was not under a deadline. Would the number of errors I found be worth putting off all the other projects on my plate? No. So I shipped.

Perfectionism isn’t a problem because it does too much, it’s a problem because in trying to do too much it causes us to do nothing at all.—Dustin Wax

Shipping, in my case, meant trusting that any other typos I’ve made will be found by the copyeditor and proofreaders. It meant understanding that the strive for perfection, in publishing anyway, is a team effort.


About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

3 comments on “When to stop editing and just ship it

  1. I loved your comment about diminishing returns. I came to that same place where I realized that I wasn’t accomplishing anything with a 23rd read through. I can’t wait to to see Alara’s Call in print!

  2. Looking forward to reading all these books in print.

    Your point about the diminishing returns is a good reminder as I’m learning to seriously prioritize my own time these days. It’s so easy to want to reread what’s been gone over and admire my own work again.

  3. […] you need to rewrite, edit, and polish your work, you also need to recognize when a project is done. https://newauthors.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/stop-editing-and-ship/ Don’t get caught in editing hell. One author I know is on her twelfth draft. Having read her […]

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