Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How Do You Know When You're FINISHED?

Sunday night, my husband left on a week-long white-water rafting trip. It was rather sudden, actually, but he's off having a blast in an area with no cell reception. For the first time in our 11-year marriage, we will not be talking on the phone before bedtime.

Late Monday night, in response to the aforementioned departure of my sons' primary-care-giver, my mother-in-law generously agreed to double up on grandchildren and take my three boys a week early, the same week she's taking three of their cousins. That's six children aged ten and under. She's amazing, that woman. Truly.

So I'm all alone. By myself. Oh-so-lonely.

Whatever shall I do?

Oh, yeah. I can finish my edit!

After I finished the first draft, I let it sit for a month or so, edited it (cutting over 12,000 words), let it sit for another month while my awesome writer's group tore it to bits (though they mostly liked it), edited it again, sent it out to amazing beta readers who spotted more mistakes, rewrote the ending and the beginning again, let it sit for a few weeks, and now I'm over halfway through the edits suggested by my betas. I still need to hunt down wayward semicolons and over-used words and phrases, but then I'm rather at a loss about what else I can fix. I'm worried I'll do more harm than good if I keep fiddling. I know it's a bit long for my genre, but I don't know which scenes can be most easily sacrificed.

By the end of the week, I might start calling my WIP a Manuscript.

By the end of the week, I just might be ready to --

See? I can't even say it. Or type it.

Because once I hit send on a... you know... reality will inevitably fall. Once I hit send, industry professionals will start to tell me that I'm not actually finished. Right? Everyone says so. Even if it's perfect, it won't please everyone. I don't need it to please everyone.

But what if it pleases no one?

What if ONE MORE edit would do the trick? Should I let it sit for another month and then read it again?


Yes, I know that my awesome blogfest buddy over at Novel Thinking already asked this question last week. There were lots of great responses. I even chimed in (oh, the irony). What I really want is for someone to say "Yes! Robin! Finish this edit and send that sucker out!"

'Cause then I can blame you when it all goes pear-shaped.


  1. As far as I know, one more edit always does the trick. Have you read a published book and thought, "What's going on here?" or "Why did the character say that there?" or "Who let this go to print with a missing word?" It happens every time I read a book because writers aren't perfect (gasp!). Editors aren't perfect (GASP!). And believe it or not, nor are publishers. Will I be struck by lightening for blasphemy now? Probably. So at some point, you'll have to put the WIP down, give it the honor of being a MS and send a QUERY. Then try not to pick up your MS unless otherwise directed because you'll probably find another wayward semicolon and be so shame-faced you don't send another query. I've done it. You sound as though you've done it too. If this were your first time querying you would be less timid. Oh, to be a novice querier again! Ignorance truly is bliss.
    GOOD LUCK. I wish you the best on your journey!

  2. I don't think I'm ever really DONE. I do know when to stop fiddling with it though. When it's pretty and shiny and as polished as I can get it. There will always be mistakes, so I "try" not to stress about it too much. If we always have something to fix, we will never send it out. :)

  3. Do it, Robin. I have broad shoulders. Why else have I been doing all the weight lifting. I liked what I've been reading lately. I you query and get requests for partials or fulls, then your query is pretty good. If no one wants it after they've read it, it might need more work. For me, that's at least something to work from.

    Like I know anything anyway. I'm paralyzed at the thought of querying. My pitch sucked, so how can I build a query? =D

  4. I think you're nearly there. I would give it one more read though after these edits (preferably out loud to yourself). Try changing the font or reading it on an ereader, the change in look can give you a little distance. Even if you just spot a couple of typos that's worth fixing.

    Moody Writing

  5. Emily--I actually AM a novice querier. I'm just a well-educated novice. I've been reading industry blogs for over a year, and I know how ignorant I am--and how it can bite me.

    Chantele--So true. Why does this feel like my ONE SHOT to get it right?

    Donna--I'm actually pretty confident about my query letter (for now--we'll see if it's as good as I think it is). Will the rest measure up? (I'm liking your book, by the way....)

    Mooderino--Thanks. I'll do that. I'm planning to finish the edit this week, take a week to write a synopsis (grr), and then give it a quick read-through (meaning no stopping for a few days to revise--just read straight through) before taking the plunge.

    I feel sort of sick right now.

  6. I never know, and honestly, I don't think any book is ever truly finished, just abandoned to publishing. :)

    I've been working on The Breakaway for 16 years off and on and I could seriously work on it for 16 more if I let myself. It's a good thing there's a publishing date for it now!

    I try to rely on good writing friends, and now my publisher and editor, to help me know when something is at a stoppable point. Before that, I relied on instinct, and even do that now.

    Lucky you to get a whole week! Ah, what I'd give for a week a lone to write...

  7. I maybe weird but I try and have as many beta readers look over it as I can, because everyone finds something new :) When I finish my 5th round of edits and get all my feed back. I will send mine out too :)

    And totally off the subject--we are story chain buddies on Deana's Blogfest :) You are right before me so write me something great to jump off of :) I'm super excited.

    And I loved you on Sara Eden's Blog.

  8. Michelle--16 years! I admire your dedication! Now if only I didn't have to work, too....

    Angie--I had tons of betas, actually. Not all of them have gotten back to me. I'm sure as soon as I send out a full, some brilliant beta will send me the perfect crit.

    I was sort of planning to write you into a corner for the blogfest. What? You don't like that? :)

    And thanks! :) Sara makes everyone look good. Lotsa editing. :D

  9. Hey Robin - No book will ever seemed finished for us, but at some point, you just have to say it's time and send it out. It's all about confidence. You have to hit that point where you feel confident in your work, and you believe that it's of professional quality. And when you do get an agent, the first thing they'll probably have you do is revisions!

  10. Phil--sadly, I was more convinced it was professional quality a month ago. :) *Takes deep breath* *dives back into editing*

  11. I'm right there with you! I thought I was done, but now I think that if I did one more edit, THEN it will be perfect. Or, well, not perfect... but maybe I've done SO many edits that I just can't deal with one more. Ha! Maybe THAT'S when you're done-- when you can't stand doing it another time!

  12. Peggy--BINGO! That must be the secret formula. If we don't care enough about them to make them one bit better, we won't care if agents aren't impressed, right?

    (Yeah, I don't think so, either. DANG IT!)

  13. I'm finding lately that I think it's finished, but then I read it again after a few weeks and realize it's not. Grr! I really want to send these Ms out.

  14. Andrea--I totally hear you! I'm only letting this draft sleep for a few days before I read it again, but yeah, I bet I find lots of ways to improve it. Grr is right.

  15. Good question.

    I don't know. I'm neurotic. I feel like I'll never finish 'cause I'm constantly editing and changing things around.