The short answer- a bajillion!
The long answer- it’s different for everyone and it depends on the type of book. In my experience (which is exceptionally limited at this stage but doesn’t stop me dispensing unsolicited advice), I realised I needed to take the number of times I thought I’d need an edit and times it by 3.333333~. Every time you make changes that are more than just a spell-check or updating a typo, you should probably think about another proof and edit. Even if you just track changes and request an review of those (recommended).
But first, you need to ask yourself some important questions like: When will it be ready for editing? Who should edit it? and How should it be edited (e.g. story improvement or just plain grammar and spelling)?
I sent my manuscript off for its first edit once the story was 90% complete. I actually thought I’d finished it- but I hadn’t. The edit focused mostly on plot with a fantastic report being returned to me containing characterisation, plot, pacing and POV improvement suggestions and feedback.
It took me a few months to update the story based on the report, then I sent it to a different editor (because my story has some surprises in it) and repeated the process again. When I’d finished, I asked friends and family to proof read and submit feedback. So that meant more changes and more edits (note: you can’t please everyone so don’t try- when dealing with suggestions from family/friends who are not writers or editors, only implement changes that match your style of writing and your idea of the characters and plot).
Now, a word of warning… Don’t make changes willy-nilly without then planning for another full edit (by a proper editor). Changing an opinion or a reference to something, may turn a character into a hypocrite or a liar. It’s very easy to contradict yourself if you are not making a change with the whole story and character history in mind.
I’ll leave you with an updated on Ruthless’ progress- I was going to have it in Amazon ready to purchase by Dec 1st but a few things have changed my mind on that:
- After some excellent feedback from proof readers I have decided to make some more changes and then follow up with ANOTHER edit
- I hear that I don’t want to compete with real authors at Christmas
- I’ve spent three years on this baby, so why not make sure it’s in the best possible condition before I release it.
New release date which is now set in stone- February 1st 2014