Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Friday, March 25, 2011

How do you know when you're done with your book?

It's snowing again. But last week the weather was warm, and I put on my barefoot shoes and went for an almost-barefoot run in the park.

Have I mentioned that running barefoot in the grass is Epiphany and Nirvana and Halleluia rolled into one?

                                                       Aahh....Bare feet.

                 That's why I had to write a book about it. Which is still way too long.

People keep asking me (since the revisions go on and on, Judah), how do you know when you're done? That's a REALLY good question. The answer on the current book is: not yet.

It's not like I know anything. I just write because I can't help it. But I can tell I'm NOT done if I'm not happy with these things:

*Plot. Problems? Does everything build to a climax? Does everything connect? Loose ends?

* Characters/character traits.  Do they talk in a way that a reader could recognize without dialogue tags?

*End of chapter hooks?

*Do I love every word on my first page? On my last?

*How's the rhythm? Does anything jar?

*Transitions, cliche's, confusing spots, anything awkward?

*Get rid of every extra word, sentence, paragraph, page, chapter. Cut, chop, slash. I always write too much.

*Play proofreader; go over grammar, punctuation and spelling like a lice-picking chimp. If that stuff isn't your forte, you might want to hire someone to do it for you.

I happen to like this part. Yeah, weird. Got a C in my college Physical Science class because I copy-edited the textbook instead of studying it. It was a terrible book. (Hmm. Maybe you should hire me. Then I could hire someone to clean my house).

*Check chapter titles and format: headings, spacing, all that crap.

These things can take, well, like, forever. Sometimes a year if I get really hung up on plot issues and decide to rewrite the entire book. But when I find myself changing everything I did yesterday back the way it was the day before, I know I need to get it out of my house.

Then I'm done. I push "send", the scariest button on earth.

What about you? How do you know when you're finished revising?


  1. I think I'm done when I'm just so bloody sick of the book I can't stand it. When I reach the point that I seriously contemplate deletion (or print & burn for the sake of it), then I know it's time to get that sucker out of my hands. =P

    I'll never forget the way I felt while reading Hepzibah. It was a journey into words that felt like finding a secret door in your basement. Wondrous. Magical. Scary (in the way of how talented you are!)

  2. Wow, thanks, Laura. You're so nice.

    I can't wait to read a finished manuscript with your name on it someday soon.

    And yeah, that's me, too. When you just can't work on the dratted thing anymore without doing something violent...a good clue the relationship is (at least temporarily) over.

  3. I haven't figured it out yet. I'm still doing rewrites on my first finished novel, not to mention the second or third. Maybe I need to get out and do some running.

  4. Shari: Running always helps! With everything (if it doesn't kill you). Barefoot, especially.

    Good luck with your rewrites. When you find something that works, let me know. Otherwise, I may be revising forever.

  5. Well, I am just writing my first novel and I don’t know when it will be finish. I think I am on a climax and I should finish in the end of August.


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