Sometimes, it’s just as hard to finish a story as it is to start it. When do you wrap it up? When do you stop editing? When is it ready ‘to go?’ How do you know these things? How do I stop tearing my hair out over it?
Let’s try to answer these questions one at a time:
- How do I know when I’m done writing a story? For me, I often ‘feel’ when a story is done, there’s no more to tell that wouldn’t be flogging a dead horse, and things have reached a natural conclusion. I may want to tell more, but I know that I would just be doing it for my own amusement and dragging things out. Sometimes it might be hard to know where this stopping point is, though. A story shouldn’t drag on too long after the climactic sequence, or else you’re going to make the reader ask what you’re trying to prove. If you want to tell the story of these character’s lives after the BIG THING happens to them, write a sequel. If you go too far past the ‘point’ of the story that point will lose its edge.
- When are you finished editing? When your eyes start to bleed. Truly, though, no matter how much you edit, there’s still going to be an editor who edits it more. You go over it, and over it again, for content, then grammar, then over it again to see how it flows. You set it aside for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes and realize it’s trash, so you need to edit it fifty more times. All writers have their own methods of editing. Eventually though, you just have to let yourself be satisfied that you’ve mostly got it together. If you’re traditionally published, then you get an editor who shows you that it’s not good at all, you big dummy, so let’s edit this some more. You breathe a huge sigh of relief when you finally get your ARC, because that means you’re done editing at last. And then, you find a typo in the published version.
- When is it ready ‘to go?’ By this, I mean when are you ready to send it off to an agent or editor, or self-publish it? Have you completed the above steps over and over until you’re crying and no words in the English language look like they’re spelled correctly anymore? That’s when. Honestly though, polish it until it shines and you don’t completely hate it, and you’re pretty confident about it. Then give it a shot. Get forty rejections, revise it again, and then send it out again to a new batch of agents and editors.
- How do you know these things? Magic. Take heart, though, you’ll get more instinctual about it the more you do it.
- How do I stop tearing my hair out over it? You won’t. Get a wig.
Being ‘done’ is a complicated state. We’re never really done, until the day the book goes on sale. And then, we get a whole new set of neurosis to deal with. Writing is a beautiful profession, isn’t it?