Friday, April 16, 2010

When "done" means "done." How do you know?

I typed "The End" in my novel way back in early December.


Silly me thought I'd be done my revisions by February, at the latest.

I must've forgotten that I'm a perfectionist. I must've forgotten that life (ahem, retinal surgery, engagement, househunting) gets in the way sometimes.

Here I am, mid-April, finally heading toward the finish line. But I see it, a shiny ribbon that I'm so close to breaking through.

I'm quite tired of saying the phrase "All I have left."

All I have left is cutting 20,000 words. (That took two rounds.)
All I have left is checking my character and plot arcs.
All I have left is perfecting my hook.
All I have left is reading it aloud for line edits. (Four chapters to go!)
All I have left is revising my synopsis.
All I have left is polishing my query letter.
All I have left is finalizing my agent list.

"All I have left" took me five months.

And it's not like my first draft was rough. Nope, after two years, that sucker was pretty darn clean and beautiful, since I revise as I go, and I've rewritten each chapter two to seven times to get it right.

I think I'll be done this month. For real, this time. And it's a little scary. Obsessively perfectionist Donna kinda sorta WANTS to add more to the "All I have left" list, because technically there's ALWAYS more you can do.

But somewhere inside, I KNOW I'm ready. I've gone through this book and analyzed it from every possible angle, looked at the big picture and squinted at it with a microscope, read it as a reader and as a writer -- plus I've gotten feedback from the FNC ladies every step of the way, and heard from a few beta readers. And I've even reread a bunch of writing blog posts I've bookmarked to refresh their excellent advice.

It's time to let go.

Thankfully, I make settlement on April 30th, so there will be plenty of things to distract me from my separation anxiety.

Plus, I have a shiny new idea. We have a date on May 1st. It's completely different from my current WIP, and I'm thrilled to start the rollercoaster ride all over again.

Which just goes to show -- every novel is a first novel.

Help! How do you know you're finished?


  1. I feel like you and I are on the same writing schedule with our first novels! It's actually freaking me out a bit. I was finishing up in December and have been editing for months with my final deadline being April 19th. Last night I finished my line edits. But I want to add more to my 'all that's left' pile too. I still feel that more can be done despite all the workshopping, all the re-writing, all the added scenes, all the deleted ones...I've even done a microsfot word spell check (which btw is an absolute nightmare to go through over 300 pages) Despite wanting to do more, I feel it's DONE. It's all very conflicting and confusing! I don't feel it's ever done, but there has to be a point where you set it free...right? I feel in my bones that my time is soon. Good luck as you cross the 'finish' line, if we ever decide it's 'finished'.

  2. I never know when I'm done. I'll revise until someone pries the ms from my cold, dead hands.

  3. Wow. You're brave for reading your whole novel out loud. I wrote a novel, but I haven't worked on it in a while because of other commitments. Now, even though I really believe in it, I feel like I have far more to do! I sometimes have new ideas about different methodologies for writing you might be interested in. Check my blog

  4. I'm going through a similar experience. I actually have been revising my book for about six years. I cut about 6000 words in November and thought I was done, then this month decided I needed to cut 3000 more. I'm about 100 pages from the end and already met my goal. I always ask myself if I'm really done.

  5. I feel like we're never finished...seriously. I'm going to have MAJOR anxiety when we know that we won't be able to make any more changes to our book.

  6. I can relate so well! I still have quite a few, "I only have lefts." Soon...

  7. So glad I'm not the only one on this ride! Not that I wish this neverendingness on others, but rather I just like to know I'm not so weird after all.

  8. Melissa - That's so crazy! Good luck to you, too.

    Candyland - Hahaha sometimes I feel that way too.

    Trevor - It's actually fun to read it aloud -- though I don't dare do it when other people are in the room!

    Natalie - Isn't it amazing how you always think you can't cut anymore, but after a break you go back to it and just chop chop chop all over again? Good luck with your revising!

    LiLa - It's oddly comforting that someone published is going through this too. But sad because that nagging fear never goes away!

    Alissa - Yes, I'm feeling that ellipsis.

    Angela - "Neverendingness" is the PERFECT term for this!

  9. Oh, you're so close now!! Good luck as you prepare the final finish. I was the same way at first. I thought my edits wouldn't take long at all. Ended up taking about 6 months. who knew? Ah well, you know when you know, I guess. And even then, you still second-guess yourself. I guess that's when your critique partners have to wrestle it away from you and force you to send it out ;)


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