Friday, April 17, 2009

What’s Done is Done

How do you decide that your manuscript is done? I don’t mean “done” as in writing “The End.” How do you say, that’s it, I will not re-read it one more time, I will not edit it again? Is it only when you hold it, bound, ISBNed, with your picture on the back flap? Is it done then?

I recently turned in the manuscript for a nonfiction book I wrote for TSTC Publishing. That’s recently, as in day before yesterday. I was done.

Oh, I wasn’t through reading it. I wasn’t through editing it. I could have kept on doing that many more times. I was through because I had a deadline. I was through because I was determined to get it in before the deadline -- one day early, to be exact. I was through because I knew I no longer was making big changes. I was tinkering, changing a word here or there, adding links and back of the book resources.

I could have kept tinkering with it. But I stopped. I had a deadline, both from the publisher and from myself. I know plenty of authors who work their butts off on a book, only to see it in print and wish they could go back and change something. Maybe even a majority of authors experience that. Maybe, for the author, done is never done.

And, yet, it has to be. There has to be a “done” point. What is yours?
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  1. Not sure if any book is ever really 'done,' as there's always revisions and new editions!

    I could tweak forever as well. I think when I receive the final copy in my hands, that signifies done for me.

    And have you ever tweaked a scene or line so many times that when you go back and compare, the final version is almost identical to the first? I always wonder - what the heck was I doing in between?

    L. Diane Wolfe

  2. I struggle with this too. No matter how many times I go through a manuscript, I find something to change. When I finally edit and realize all the changes I made were very minor, I decide it's time to cut it loose.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  3. It's the nature of our game to want everything to be just right for ourselves and our readers.

    If I can do a readthrough and not find any glaring mistakes, I'm happy to put the book to rest. Problem is I do always find something wrong. Once my books are published I'm afraid to read them in case something was missed.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. Good question and I'm not sure I have a set answer. I have three books published and each one I felt was "done" when I sent if off to the press but I still now can see places I'd like to re-write "better." That could also be because I keep growing as a writer, I suppose.

  5. Diane, I like the idea that you can tweak yourself right around to where you started. That is so true, it made me chuckle.

    I agree, Jane. You reach a point where you realize you're just making minor changes, and you realize it's time to let it go.

    You're probably smart, Morgan, to not read your published books. On the other hand, if you have the chance to make changes before it's re-released, then that's a good time to read it again.

    Hello Marvin. Thank goodness we keep growing as writers. It'd be sad to be stuck and not changing!

  6. I'll let you know. I may have thought I was done when I finished writing the thing, but it's not done. First novel fun!

  7. Meg, most of the time, you're not even done when you think you've finished the editing phase. Then comes the tinkering phase....

  8. Like you, Helen, I am never done editing and polishing. Every time I reach that point where I am ready to send a story out for submission, I have to just let it go. But if it comes back unpublished, I go over it again and tweek little details before sending it out again. I've been told I'm obsessive about it to the point of needing therapy... bah! I just want it to be as polished and readerworthy as possible.


  9. I'm actually glad that everyone is weighing in on the never done side of things. I feel normal for being that way, lol.

  10. Never done--I've popped open books of mine that are already published and BLAM! First thing I see is something that needs editing, or that I have a "Eureka" moment of how I could have done it better.

    Knowing when editing starts devolving the work is a tricky skill, one I'm not sure I've mastered quite yet. I give stories 2-3 runs and possibly some test reads before sending it out. If it doesn't get picked up, I'll re-evaluate and polish some more.


  11. How well I know what Diane is talking about. I edit constantly as I write, and it isn't unusual to find myself going back to the way I had some word or phrase the first time. It's good that we continually strive to improve our writing, but our first impression can often be the best.

    As for when to quit and let it go...? I suppose it's when I get tired and think I've got better things to do than continue to pick at this.

  12. great thoughts! I think when it is done is when I can't read it one more time! And I know there will always be more edits later.
    Thanks for visiting my blog:) You have a ton of great information here and I will be browsing through it all!

  13. It would appear that we writers are an anal bunch of editors! And proud of it. For some odd reason, that makes me quite happy.

  14. When I start changing things, then on the next pass, changing it back, it's time to stop. But it's never easy to say "good enough."

  15. I agree with what Marvin said. Usually I stop working on a book when I get a contract because I know they're going to edit it their way and I'll get at least two more chances at it. But when I look back at something I wrote last year, I see things that have to be changed because I've learned things as a writer. At least I hope I have.

  16. Actually, I may work best to a deadline. As you say, it forces done. Otherwise I tend to tinker forever.

    On the subject of done, when is a blog post done? Once it's posted do you leave it alone, or do you go back and read over them and then correct them when you see something wrong? I do that. Maybe it's OCD? ;)

  17. When is done, done? I'll let you know when I hit that point, Helen, lolol! I'm in the revision stage right now on one. Once I have that final run through and everything is the best I can make it--I'm done. I'm so sick of reading this thing, lol! The probalem is, I know I'll have to do additional rewrites and no, I'm NOT looking forward to those.

    Jon, Blogs are easier. Once I publish it, I go back for one more read through and if the format is right and the pictures stay where they're supposed to be, and no typos? Then Honey, I AM done.

    Diane, how funny. I've done the very same thing, almost full circle, lol! Maddening, isn't it?

  18. Jon, I do re-read my posts, before I actually post them. Then, I admit, once it's live, I read it again. If I see something like a spelling error or a word left out, I'll go back and make the change. After that, I let it go.

    With posts, as well as books, at some point you have to let them go.

  19. Writing is one of those jobs that's never finished. I drive myself to self-imposed deadlines because I work better that way. But if the deadline arrives and I'm still making big changes, I set a new deadline. Once I find myself making minor tweaks, or putting commas in so I can take them out on the next round. I stop...for a while.

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