Authors celebrate on publication day for so many different reasons. It’s the culmination of a journey. It’s watching your child step out into the world and find their way. It’s the satisfaction, hopefully, of a job well done, which can be its own reward.

open bookBut for authors like me—and I know I’m far from alone in this—there is another reason to celebrate: because once the book is published, you can’t effing edit it any more.

No matter how good a piece of writing feels on that first pass, if you’re like me, you always think you could make it better, if you just gave it some time and came back, if you just looked at it from the right angle, in the right mood, found the right word. That’s how work advances from raw to polished, and from good to, hopefully, better than good.

At a certain point, though, determination turns to compulsiveness, and you move beyond anything that could properly be called “editing” and into the realm of tinkering. For better or for worse, the process of acquiring permission to use various lyrics quoted in my upcoming novel has extended far beyond any reasonable expectation I had going in. This has allowed me to step away from the manuscript for months at a time, and come back, only to be devoured by the desire to read it again, and find all those little moments I never quite zeroed in on before that could still be improved, just a hair, on the margin.

I’m doing that right now for what has to be the fifth or sixth time. At this point I’m averaging changing two or three words per chapter. Ridiculous, no? Obsessive, surely. But what if those two or three words make the difference for some reader? More importantly, they make a difference for this reader—and, in the end, authors write for an audience of one. Any more than that is gravy.

The good news is, despite my overly optimistic prediction that the sequel to Believe in Me would appear before the end of this year—sorry folks, it’s looking like spring 2015—the tunnel I’ve been in for some time now is growing lighter by the day, and I’m not hearing the rumble of a 100-ton locomotive heading my direction.

So yes, I will celebrate on publication day—not just the beginning, but the end. Not just a launch, but also a deliverance.