Dear Editor:

I keep revising and re-revising my manuscript. How can I tell when it’s time to let go?

—John S.

Lots of authors have this problem. I worked with a writer once who spent over a year and a half revising a draft of her manuscript. I finally said “Please send what you have to me by Friday, or we are going to have to cancel your contract.” She did. It was no better than the draft I had seen a year and a half before. In fact, it had lost some of its energy and freshness.

The moral of this story: Let it go before it (your publisher if you have one) lets go of you. There’s a point at which you’re not making the book better; you’re just making it different. “You have to be good at recognizing that point,” says Salman Rushdie.

How do you get good at this? First, you trust your instincts. Read the draft through carefully and be kind to yourself. Unless something leaps out at you as inaccurate, intrusive, or just plain ridiculous, leave it alone. Then ask for a reading from a couple of friends whose judgment you respect. Consider hiring a freelance editor if you haven’t already. If she thinks it’s ready to send to your agent, or to send out to prospective agents, then it probably is.

If you have a question for the editor, please email Betty Sargent.

Betty Kelly Sargent is the founder and CEO of BookWorks.