Some Advice on How to Stop the Habit of Over-Editing

Posted byCJ Coombs Posted onNovember 20, 2023 Comments0

Put an end to lost time and productivity

On top of a 9 to 5, I left nearly three years ago, I also made wedding cakes for several years.

I saw my share of edits while working.

With wedding cakes, every time a cake was close to completion, I would always find one more detail to add, change, or fix. I couldn’t just leave it alone. Part of that was probably associated with my being a perfectionist.

Over the past three years, I began weaning from being such a tight perfectionist, where everything had to be so perfect — according to my brain and rules anyway.

Writing is different. You can edit a project a handful of times and you better be sure you know the reasons why you keep editing. There is a balance between necessary editing and over-editing for writers.

When I had a 9 to 5, I saw excessive revisions a lot, sometimes to the point where someone might have wondered if the originality was completely lost. A problem with over-editing is you risk delaying the completion of other projects if you’re working on deadlines.

I’ve seen people edit so many times that every once in a while, the final project would go back to how it was written in the very beginning before the edits. Crazy stuff, not to mention the wasted time involved. A solid writer makes fewer edits. You want to be a solid writer.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash.

Be aware when you’re over-editing

For each writing project, set a goal for when it’s going to be complete and when you’re going to let it go.

If you tend to over-edit, and you don’t set that goal, you’re going to set yourself up to make unnecessary edits. What you could have completed today may not be ready until tomorrow — because you can’t stop touching the words. Stop.

If it’s a big project, it’s important to step away for a bit. Breaks are important while editing heavy projects like a book if you self-edit. You never know, you might have a different perspective when you come back to your work. You can look at the necessary changes and also prioritize them.

Obviously, the first or second go around is to ensure you have no typos that aren’t caught. Getting rid of unnecessary words is another good thing. On the third read, make sure it flows and isn’t confusing. After all, you don’t want to give your reader the impression you’re going to talk about ocean beauty and have a closing paragraph about umbrellas.

Also, you can consider getting some feedback from someone you trust to provide you with thoughts on areas that can be improved, if any. It’s always good to collaborate with other people who have different perspectives to make sure you don’t have a blind spot on your subject. Your goal is to enhance the quality of your writing.

Do you call yourself a writer? Then, it’s important that you trust yourself as a writer too.

Remember that perfection is subjective. If you strive for perfection, don’t let that hinder your progress. Have confidence in your work.

If you implement specific strategies, you can find the balance between necessary edits and avoiding the time wasted with over-editing. Once you establish some newfound clarity, this will allow you to produce high-quality content efficiently while also staying true to your voice as a writer.

Photo by Alexandra Fuller on Unsplash.

Over-editing can be a common pitfall for writers

The negative side of over-editing leads to loss of time and productivity. Once you learn how to overcome that tendency and streamline your editing process, the better off your writing skills will be.

When you begin editing, decide what aspects you want to focus on other than grammar. Read for clarity and how your topic is structured. Don’t underestimate the value of having an outline before you begin writing.

Once you have a goal in mind of what you want to achieve with your editing, this will help you early on so you don’t find yourself in that cycle of revisions that seem endless — you don’t want that.

Let’s say you have one page to edit on a four-page project. Decide how much time you want to spend editing it and stick to it. There is no fast rule that says you have to keep tweaking a paragraph over and over.

If you want to stop the excessive self-editing habit, and like stated above, get some external input. In time, believe it or not, you’ll know when your work is good. If you’re a perfectionist like I am, you’ll learn how that trait can steer over-editing routines. Don’t forget to use strategies.

  • Set clear objectives
  • Establish time frames
  • Get feedback
  • Accept some imperfection

Trust yourself. Learn when it’s time to let go and move on to the next project. In time, you’ll be a very efficient writer.

Thanks for reading.

© 2023 (Opening photo by Daria Nepriakhina UA on Unsplash.)