Now, that may sound like an odd statement. I mean, you’ve completed your first draft. Revised. Worked with a book editor. Rewritten. Polished. So, you’re done! The End! But how do you really know if your book is finished?
֍ So often, writers tell me they have revised and rewritten. But, that they don’t know what to do with the manuscript from here, or, if it needs more.
Does that mean it’s finished?
֍ They also tell me they’re sick to death of this one. (Haven’t we all felt this way at some point! Lol.) That they’re ready to contact literary agents or self-publish and move on to the next novel.
Does that mean this book’s finished?
֍ Sometimes writers say nothing, and just send me a revised manuscript for guidance on what to do with it. Trash it? Submit it? Self-publish?
And my first question is always: Do you think it’s finished?
Because any time I receive missives like those 3, I know the book isn’t done. That there’s more work required to make it ready for prime time.
So, why is that, and how do you know if your book is finished, as in, The End and let’s move on?
For clarity, let’s dissect these 3 issues and approaches.
֍ First off, say you have revised and rewritten and polished. But you don’t know if the manuscript needs more, or is truly at the end point.
That tells me a lot. It says that you’ve taken the revision to heart, dug in, followed guidance, let your creativity soar along with your rewriting. Yay! So far, so good!
But it also says that if you have the question—does it need more? What still needs doing? A nagging sense within you says, well, maybe something. . . Which means, we’re not done with it yet.
֍ Second, lord alone knows I understand being sick to death with a manuscript. You think if you have to look at it one more time, you’ll run screaming from the room. It’s become an albatross, your nemesis, that demon that awakens you in the night and tells you you’re no good at this.
Yeah. That one.
And the beautifully inspired baby you created and adored has become a horror-film fiend.
Which is a lot of the reason you’re sick of it. I have yet to meet the writer, or even successful author, who doesn’t have at least one gremlin in his psyche telling him to take up another craft. That he’ll never be good enough at this one.
And that demon tends to jump all-in at about this point (although it almost always has visited much earlier on, and even throughout the process).
When this happens, you’re about ¾ of the way finished.
Feel free to run screaming from the room! But if you face that monster—and that’s all you gotta do, just face it—it’ll wane.
I don’t believe this devil ever leaves writers entirely. Again, I know and work with bestselling authors, and funny enough, even after a slew of books in print, they still come to me saying, “I don’t know if this one’s any good.”
So, you’re in good company.
֍ Which leads to the third one—do I try NY with this? Try to snag a great literary agent? Toss it in the drawer? Self-publish?
As a book editor, that tells me a lot as well. It says, obviously, you’re unsure. Which again is on the writerly gene, but this one’s a bit deeper. It tells me you don’t believe in your book.
Now, I’m not saying unbridled arrogance in your creation is any better (in fact, that’s usually the same thing, the insecurity covered up by a false façade). If you think this is the best novella since The Old Man and the Sea, well, we have other issues here.
However, in this publishing climate, some of those which-way-to-go questions will remain.
But if you believe in your book—truly believe in your book—you’ll be reaching for that brass ring. Which is Traditional publishing. And the question would be: how do I get this there?
One failsafe way exists to know if your book is finished. I’ve never seen this not hold true, both for myself, my writers, and other authors I know as well. And it’s a funny one:
You don’t want to let go of it. Because you’ve fallen in love with it all over again (yes, that same manuscript you wanted to torch those months back!). Once you’re done, truly done, it’s as if that baby is about to be ripped from your arms and tossed into the world.
And, you’ll miss it.
So, birth that baby. Raise it up through revision. Circle back around and around. And when you can’t bear to be away from it for a second, let it fly!