At some point, every author has grappled with the question of how to know when you’re done writing your work-in-progress. From obsessing over the last few lines to getting lost in endless revisions, it’s hard to know if the latest draft of your manuscript is final.
For example, here are the last few names of drafts for one of my books.
So, I decided to make of list of things to help me stop the endless cycle of editing and finally declare victory.
1. Listen to your subconscious
When you’re no longer thinking about that story day and night, you’re likely done. You may be pushing that shopping cart down the aisle at the grocery store and while scanning the boxes of pasta, do you lose your train of thought and start thinking about your manuscript? Or does your subconscious begin to ruminate about your next story? If it’s the latter, maybe it’s a sign that your book is finished?
2. You’ve had enough
Have you ever said to yourself, that I can’t look at this manuscript anymore? Maybe you feel editing is making it worse not better. I’ve been there. It may be time to call it a wrap before you end up making it worse.
3. Edits have become miniscule
After round after round of edits, your manuscript will reach the point where further edits are pointless. For some writers the editing process is a manifestation of their insecurities. While the manuscript still needs edits, it’s not ready to show the world. It’s time to let go. If you need help to get you there, show it to critique partners who can be honest about whether your book is finished.
4. You’re not setting deadlines
Art doesn’t always observe the concrete deadlines we might like to impose upon it. If it says it wants more time than you had planned to give it, you’re usually better off listening to it. However, there comes a time when deadlines can be useful in moving a stubborn story to the finished line. Set a time limit for your story.
5 Learn to let go
I’ve held a printed copy of a released novel and discovered a missing comma or a minor typo. My first reaction is why didn’t I do another round of edits. It’s inevitable that this will happen to you one day. Best seller novels lso have typos. You do the best editing job you can and then just let your baby go so she can stand on her own two feet.