Thursday, August 9, 2012

When is done really done?

I've been slowly rereading my book this week, taking notes and marking it up in preparation for plotting book two. It's been almost three months since I've read it, and I've been surprised by how many mistakes I'm finding in my "query-ready" manuscript. A couple of misspellings, a few slipping out of tenses, and a number of extra words to trim to tighten up my sentences. I know time away from our projects helps us come back with fresh eyes, but how long is long enough?



I must have read through my book a bazillion times (slight exaggeration), but I'm still surprised by the number of mistakes I'm catching. Is the fact that I'm reading it on paper this time make a difference? How much time away is enough to reset our brains? Days, weeks, years?

And even though I'll be doing revisions with my agent, then later editor, there's a chance we won't catch everything before it goes out to print and into the world. I mean, how many books do you read and find errors in the text? Lots. And that's just line editing type items. What about improving character development, catching plot holes, better word choice? There are always things that can be changed, but at some point, you've got to say enough is enough...but when is that?


For me it might be when I'm ready to throw that book (or computer) across the room--and if I don't have to look at that thing again for the rest of my life, then good riddance. (Nerdy homeschool fact of the day: did you know Shakespeare coined the term good riddance?) I have a feeling, though, that it will have to be even longer than that. So I guess what I want to know is, how do you know when it's good enough?

21 comments:

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I just read through THE BREAKAWAY again to write PIECES better. And oh my gosh, ouch. The book has a few hard typos - only three, but still - and there were at least five things on each page I would change now. This is why it's not a good idea to read through my stuff after it's published. I never feel like something is completely finished. I could always tweak, because I'm always changing as a person, learning and growing, and so is my writing.

So when do I know it's good enough? When my publisher tells me, um, you can't make any more changes, Michelle. The book has been sent to the printer. Say goodbye!

And the I turn away and focus on something else. Finally.

Kelley Lynn said...

First, AH AGENT!!!

Second, AH Soon you'll have a publisher!!!

Third... I don't really know how to answer this. I probably should be thinking about it because this will happen to me in less than a year as well. Maybe I'll do like Michelle and just not look back.

That's going to be tough though since it's a series. I guess we just have to accept that we're human, and that others believe in our story and our work. Perhaps we can take that as enough.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

There are lots of authors who have come forward to express that a book is never really done. J.K. Rowling has said it, so has Stephen King, and others. You just get to a point where you let it go. It sounds like you are swiftly approaching this milestone. However, years from now, after you're a best seller, and your book has been out there, I guarantee you'll pick it up and think that there were things that you would have liked to change.

Suzi said...

I do the same thing. Always finding something new, and I wonder how I missed it. It's frustrating.

Ink in the Book said...

I know. I can only imagine how that works because I haven't arrived as an agented writer. YET. But I know about writing, editing, checking, worrying,editing, writing again, and worrying again.
So, best wishes! Take a deep breath, relax, and let your characters do the hard part:)

ilima said...

Michelle-Five things on each page? Oh, dear. Yes! I need someone else to tell me to stop. I like this plan.

Kelley-Ooh, I forgot Fraction is a series. Gosh, I'm still so excited to see that in print. Knowing others believe in our story...I like that.

Michael-I'm sure there will be. I just hope to not be hard on myself about it.

Suzi-I know, right? And considering how many readers/CP's have read it, I'm surprised. Oh, well.

Ink in the Book-We writers are such worriers! I wonder if all artists are like that. *taking a deep breath*

Robin said...

Oh man, I am wondering the same thing. When will I ever be done. When will I not read through my MS and find misspellings and commas out of place. It does feel never ending.

Reading it on paper helps a ton. Reading it out loud backwards (1 sentence at a time) as I'm doing now has helped a ton.

All I can say is I want one heck of an amazing copy editor. I'll add that to my list- awesome agent, pub house, editor . . .

Emily R. King said...

I don't think a book is ever finished. It can always be improved upon. My hope is to improve as a writer, so when I look at work I've finished long ago, I SHOULD be able to improve upon it.

Not very helpful, am I? :)

Britney Gulbrandsen said...

I have the SAME question. Every single time I read something I've written I find SOMETHING to change. So when do I just say, "Screw it!" and send it out? It's a tough call!

Lexa Cain said...

Here's the problem I have - my writing changes about every 3-4 months. It not only improves a little, but I think my tastes change, too. I'm sure I could work on my book for years and still not be satisfied. But at some point, you just have to move on. Nothing's ever "perfect" anyway.

ilima said...

Robin-You go girl on your reading backwards. So impressed.

Emily-So not helpful! :) But very very true.

Britney-I think we should start a toll-free number that writers can call and we tell them, "Screw it! Send it out!"

Lexa-I want to rewrite my first book. Again. Because every time I do it gets better. So I totally get what you mean. Sigh.

jaybird said...

I don't think I'll ever get out under revisions. Of course, in typical Jaybird fashion I make all of the dumb typos and stupid mistakes, which take up a lot of time. But I also can't stop changing things! Every single time I go back, I want to throw everything out and start again.

It's so hard to stop myself!!

Gwen Gardner said...

I know what you mean about editing. I find tons of mistakes in published books. I've been over my own MS a dozen times, and have just noticed how much fun I had with dialogue tags!

Anita said...

It's difficult, but I think it's best to put the book away for a good length of time (at least a couple weeks) and then come back to it for revisions...that seems to make the revisions count more and make the book closer to ready.

Jay Noel said...

This is where having another set of eyes helps. I'm so terribly blind to my own mistakes, it's scary!

ilima said...

Jaybird-Sometimes I change things, and on my next read through, I'll change them back. Gah, it never ends.

Gwen-I just recently got rid of a few dialogue tags altogether. There's just so much to remember!

Anita-Time away is so valuable!

Jay-I couldn't live without my CP's, that's for sure.

Mark K said...

Thank you for joining me at the hearth - it's lovely to have you with us :)

As for me, at the moment I never know when to stop, so I just take a break from it all, put it down and turn to something else. The only danger with that is losing your momentum and inspiration.

Bonnee Crawford said...

It's been three years since I completed the first draft of my manuscript and I'm still revising. I just decided to change a lot of things in it as well, so it will take even longer. I think it varies from book to book and from author to author. Honestly, I couldn't tell you when it's good enough.

Peggy Shumway said...

Creating the perfect passage or manuscript is never ending. The important thing is to keep trying until someone else sees the value of our words.

Kathryn Purdie said...

I'm such a perfectionist, I'm afraid that time will never come for me. I'll just have to be brave and let my book go out into the world and hope people will see more if its strengths than its flaws. REMAKE was really clean, so don't worry. <3

Suzanne Furness said...

Editing, I know what you mean. We so want it all to be perfect and we keep finding mistakes. Sooo frustrating. I agree with you, I find mistakes I missed on screen when I print out hard copies. I think it must have something to do with our eyes getting too used to seeing something and sometimes completly making things up!

Thanks for stopping by my blog recently it's good to meet you.

Good luck with those edits.