Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When do you know you're done?

I had a whole story done, with the exception of a few ending pages and a few scene re-writes. The character and plot development were all in place, there was appropriate tension throughout the story, and it was well-received by my crit group.

So why did I start back at page one with a re-write in 1st person instead of the 3rd that I have been doing? Why can't I just call the book done, make some changes, and submit it by the June 30 CreateSpace deadline to get it printed?

I think I'm afraid of completing the book. I'm afraid to see the book on my shelf and know that it is complete, but not "Finished" in the sense of starting the query process.

But you see, I don't have to start the query process, or the oh-my-God-this-time-I-mean-it-revisions if I don't complete the necessary ending pages and scenes.

How is it that I'm afraid to finish the draft of my book for my own bookshelf, but still have dreams of friends and family buying my published book at a bookstore? In order to reach part B of the dream, I have to take care of part A. Which means I need to do the finishing touches and get the draft printed. I can still work on the 1st person POV, but the act of printing my story out is a mental obstacle that I need to get over.

I need to be done with this phase of my book so I can move on to the next one.

How do you know when you're done with your book? Or do you keep finding new scenes to write or story lines to incorporate?


  1. There are so many reasons NOT to finish writing a book. Fear was always my biggest. Fear that it's no good, fear I can't find a publisher, fear that even if it does get out, people will hate it.

  2. There are always more good ideas than can be put into a single work. Sometimes I've just got to tell myself that it can go in the next one.

    But it's really hard to move on with the sense that something could be made better. Maybe think of excessive rewrites as stealing time/energy from future projects?

  3. I have a hard time letting go of a project too. I will revise and revise until I absolutely can't stand to look at the thing anymore. I think, in part, it is my way of avoiding the necessary next step. But finally I hit a wall and have to walk away or go insane.

    I just went through that stage, and I'm beginning to query. I think we're all just a little neurotic. :P

  4. I "know" when I find myself doing a rewrite that damages the story instead of tightening it up.

    Of course then I send it off and get feedback from an agent or acquisitions editor that might well indicate it's not finished.

  5. Personally, I think never feeling 'done' with a story is a good thing. I've never felt 'done' with anything I've written, even things that I have submitted to enter workshops or contests. I was proud of the pieces, of course, but they weren't 'finished' in my head.

    Of course, part of that is because I've never actually printed anything and turned it into a book -- I know I have a long way to go before anything I write will ever be considered professionally finished.

    However, I think the tendency toward perfectionism that never feeling done with your work implies is a good thing. I think I read on Query Shark that she wanted to work with the authors who were constantly striving toward perfecting their writing. The only time perfectionism isn't good is when you're writing your first draft.

    Wow, that was a really long comment. Maybe I should just write a blog post of my own on this. :P Good luck with you WiP!

  6. @Karen, exactly. It's the fear factor.

    @Hektor, I like how you think! I can put my new plot ideas into the next book (in theory it's a series) instead of jamming it all into one. I am clearly wasting time on any future books by spending so much time on this one.

    @LG, yup. Avoidance. Absolutely. I'm avoiding looking at my WIP through a microscope and ID'ing the issues by constantly finding other places to "tweak."

    @Margo, ohh... this is interesting! I should go back to my original outline and compare it with my new one. It's highly likely that in my attempt to "round out" some places, I'm actually clouding up the entire story. Thanks for the perspective!

  7. Hannah, my palindromic friend! "I know I have a long way to go before anything I write will ever be considered professionally finished" YES! THIS!

    There's a nagging voice in my head that is asking, "What's the point, you'll never be published" and unfortunately, that voice is loud right now. So who cares if I blow up the entire second half of the book with a re-write, right?

    WRONG. There's nothing wrong with striving towards perfection. At least. not at this stage in the game.

  8. I know this feeling very well! If you really, really want to re-edit, put the book away for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes to make sure you're not just procrastinating. Because if you're not finished, you can't fail, right? ;)

  9. for me it was easy. I was done when i just got sick of dealing with it. Anything else to change on mine would have been huge changes (like a POV switch) and i wasn't sure that would make the book any better.

  10. You're probably finished with the book when you start wondering why you aren't finishing the book :-)

    I don't know why we do this to ourselves. I do it too. Getting too close to the end means I will probably find great fault with the plot that will require a total rewrite. I'm not sure it is always necessary but I definitely can't talk myself out of it most of the time.

  11. @Jen--Yup! If I don't finish it (like, really REALLY finish it), then I have an excuse for it being "pretty good" but not "brilliant." :)

    @Sarah--This is a very interesting question. Am I rewriting in 1st person because it's a stall tactic and as a result, it's not improving my story? I can come up with all sorts of changes to make, but they have to be strategic. Hmm... I could write a whole new blog on this.

    @Sommer--"You're probably finished with the book when you start wondering why you aren't finishing the book..." Crap. I have to think about this some more. A LOT more.

  12. Even time I look at my draft, I find something needs to be changed, re-written, deleted...so I guess until that stops - it's not ready for query.

    Good luck!! ;-)


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