Monday, January 21, 2008

Is it done yet?

When do you officially stop writing and declare your work over, done, fini?

When you type The it really The End?

I have a feeling many (most?) writers have the experience of changing, fixing, tweaking, dotting, crossing, moving - every dang time they reread their work.

I am most definitely one of those writers.

But, with a first draft, I've learned to follow my instincts, which, thankfully, get better with experience. I've gotten better at listening to that gut feeling that tells me I may be reaching the point of diminishing returns - when my changes are no longer improving the work and may even be hurting the work.

I've learned to listen to myself when that voice inside me says, "STOP. Step away from the pencil. Get this thing in the mail to your editor immediately!"

With a final draft, it can be a little trickier - particularly with regard to the actual writing - the choice and placement of words - as opposed to the overall storyline. (Does that make sense?)

I recently read a terrific exercise to help with that "When am I finished?" feeling.

This is from one of my 893 books on writing: Off the Page: Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings, and Everything in Between, edited by Carole Burns:

Writer John Dalton says:

As for the question of whether the writing has reached a level where it can be considered finished, I'd suggest printing out all the pages and making a proud stack of them on your dinner table. Then start flipping open the manuscript randomly. Begin reading wherever your gaze falls on the page. If you keep doing this and what you read continues to strike you as compelling and elegantly composed, this may be a sign that you're finished.


Anonymous said...


Barbara O'Connor said...

Yes, Kim - this post is dedicated to you! STEP AWAY FROM THE PENCIL.


Anonymous said...

I have stepped away. I am finally, happily, done!