Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When Is It Finished?

I seem to be running a day behind. I woke up thinking that today was Tuesday when it's actually Wednesday. Which means...

Time for Indie Life, and once again I missed it. I had something all ready to go, too. Very sad.

In any case, I was on a writing forum this morning and got an interesting question. Since I've put my book out there, the question was how did I know when it was ready?

There are a lot of ways to know if a book isn't ready. Knowing when the book IS ready is much more difficult, and at the same time much simpler.

You can work at it for years and never feel that it's quite right. You can pay for a full plot edit and line edit, make all the changes and still not feel that it's ready. You can send it off to agents and get nothing. For years.

I worked on Without A Voice for six years. I finished the first draft in a five hour writing marathon and chortled wildly. Finished! Finally!

Then I read through it and realized it wasn't. It was missing something, some indefinable thing that I couldn't quite identify. I read through it again, sent it out to beta readers, made the suggested changes and still it didn't feel right.

So I let it sit. When I went back I read it straight through, beginning to end. And I loved it! Except for one little thing--well, two. Or three.

I found I was able to identify the problems that had eluded me before. Little things, for the most part, but important. I needed to quantify and deepen the villain, I needed a few more details to clarify what was going on. And when I read it through again I knew it was ready. Not just suspected--I knew.

When can you tell that your book is ready? The boundary is probably different for everyone, but at some point you will have learned enough and practiced enough that it will click and you'll go from not-quite-there (as a writer) to I-know-how-to-do-this. You'll be able to see the problems that have puzzled you and you'll know how to fix them.

At some point you'll pass that boundary, you'll know it, and there's no going back.


  1. Lauren,

    Good to meet you. The more experienced I've become as a writer, the better I understand when a book is finished. I get sick to death of my work before letting it leave my hands.

    When I've answered all plot questions and start putting back commas I took out, I know it's time to stop fiddling.

    1. Makes sense. There's a point where any changes are just going to be change, and not help.

  2. Whenever I look at my own writing, I can always find ways to make it better. My priority has become to do the best I can before my deadline and make sure I don't make any mistakes that are too embarrassing.

    - James

    1. Oh, there'll always be things that you find later. I can't let "I might find problems at another time" keep me from finishing or sending something out or I'd never get anything accomplished.

      Your tactic sounds good to me.

  3. To me a story is ready when I've cut and cut as much text as I can and every single word left serves the purpose to advance the plot. I can sense that with the short stories I'm most proud of writing, but sensing that in my first novel is going to be a beast!

    1. If you already know how to sense it in a short story, the transition to novel might not be too difficult.

  4. I don't know it's ever ready, at least not my stories, but I do reach a point where I'm just done with it. When I stop enjoying working on the story and feel there's nothing more I can do with it. I then either set it aside or send it out and if I get interest, maybe it's ready. If not maybe it's not and I need to let it sit a while and go back to it later with fresher eyes.