Writing a story is not the defining aspect of what makes ‘a writer’. When you type those words ‘the end’ it is really just the beginning for that story. The first draft is just that, the first of (often) many drafts. Every scene, every sentence, every word then goes under the magnifying glass. “Does it contribute to the story, is it clear what is going on, is there a more eloquent way to say that?”
The editing process can take as much or as little time as you let it. No writer will ever read a piece without spotting a little typo, or turn of phrase that they would tweak if it was on their computer screen.
So when do you know when you are done?
Generally you have a gut instinct about when your story goes from being ‘okay’ to being ‘good’. As for when it is great, well that will depend entirely on your mood. Great is not so easy to spot. This leaves the writer with the question; when should the editing stop?
We all want to put our best work out there, but given that we will always change a story when we re-read it, it follows that we can never actually attain ‘our best’ work. It is a moving target with no solid definition.
For me, when I feel like my edits stop growing the story and I am getting caught up in semantics, I know it is time to set the story free. Is that a good yardstick? I really don’t know. I would love to know how others know when they have got their piece to be ‘the best it can be’ and (more importantly) when they know that it is still not quite there.