It’s one of the toughest things to figure out as a writer, and oftentimes causes some of the biggest problems. It’s all to do with the nature of rewriting – the way it unfolds, how it lacks that magical feel, the amount of time it takes; how difficult it is… the list goes on and on.
All of these things go toward creating a widespread hatred of the rewriting process, but none quite so much as not knowing when you’re done. It’s bad enough finding something really difficult and really boring, but when you don’t know how much suffering you’ve got left – well that’s just a whole new type of suffering.
But why is it so tough to know when you’re done?
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Because You Never Really Are
That’s the thing, rewriting could go on forever.
You’re always growing and improving as a writer/reader, which in turn means your expectations of what should be written are doing the same. The more you read and write, the more your ability will develop, but as a consequence of this, so will your expectations. And if what you see on the page during your rewrite doesn’t live up to your expectations, guess what you’ll find yourself doing?
It’s a dangerous trap to fall into, especially if you’re someone who takes a full month away from the project to work on something else between drafts. Your ability and expectations have time to develop during that month away, and when you come to rewrite, rather than make the tiny changes you thought you were going to, you’ll end up rewriting the entire thing again.
It’s actually quite common, and is the reason a lot of writers never really move forward much. This is also the reason why we recommend holding off with the grand task of the novel until you’re considerably developed in terms of your writing abilities. If you try the novel right away – as many do – it won’t be until about your fourth or fifth draft that it will look even remotely presentable.
Just think of all that wasted time, and how much of it you could have spent writing wonderful short stories and developing your craft…
Of course, it’s not as simple as that. If you want to be a novelist, you’re going to have to try the novel at some point, right? And even if you wait until you’re considerably developed, the first one will still be one heck of a struggle.
That’s where the rewriting comes in. And knowing when you’re done is just as important.
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But How Do I Know When I’m Done?
Done is perhaps a bad word, so let’s stop thinking of it as done.
Instead, let’s look at it from a broader perspective, and analyse what being ‘done’ actually means. As we’ve already covered, you’re never done, because you’re always growing and developing as a writer. So what does it make you when your rewrite is complete to the best of your ability?
Ready. It makes you ready.
When you’re satisfied with your manuscript, it means you’re ready to put it out there in whatever way you wish to pursue. That may be in the form of submission to an agent or publisher, or it could be in the form of printing and distributing. Whether you’re shooting for traditional, or pursuing self-publication – that state of readiness remains the same.
It’s never a case of whether or not your book is good enough (metaphorically, of course,) but more a case of whether or not you’re ready for the world to see it.
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