I have a dear friend whom I've never met in person. She's pretty much made of Pure Awesome, like all of my friends are. I must admit, though, that I wanted to smack her upside the head the other day. We were talking on Skype and she started telling me about the final personal edits she's doing on a book of hers before sending it in to her editor.
So, Michelle, I'm doing all these searches for to-be verbs and the word "was" and "that" and adverbs, and all that crap. What about this paragraph? I've written "was" in this paragraph EIGHT times. I've got to get rid of some!
I read through the paragraph. There was nothing wrong with it. I would have written it differently according to my own style, but it was beautiful writing. I didn't want to change a word. It got her point across just fine. I proceeded to glare at her over the camera. Sorry, Dear Friend. You know I love you. I think she'd crossed that line - you know, the one where you go kind of INSANE with editing your own work?
There's a point where we need to let go. I know I've whipped out the huge magnifying glass and started looking at my work like it's something to be completely dissected and ripped apart. Like you're ever going to get it back together into something recognizable...hah!
Danger Zone: When you start looking at the number of specific words in every single paragraph in your book. Too many "thats!" you cry, and start hitting the delete button like a crazy person. You start fixing things everywhere, and out of order. Then you realize that you've changed something back there that will affect something up here that will affect something over there. Crap.You've created a mess. So you do more editing, and before you know it three months have passed and you should have just rewritten the book from scratch.
Yes, I drew that picture with my limited drawing skills. Don't make fun of it.
I'm just saying there is a point where we step over the line. If you're serious about traditional publication, an editor will take your manuscript and make it all shiny and pretty. (If you want to publish your own work, hire an editor if you can.) If there's an ugly WAS glaring somewhere, they'll nix it. Some things are just too small to spend three months stressing over.
Use your common sense and be aware that if you're entering Danger Zone territory, maybe you should call up a good friend and have them talk you down from that delete-frenzy ledge. You know, when you start to go cross-eyed and think every sentence you write is utter crap? Yeah, I know you've been there. I have, too.