How to be Done

Katherine Longshore 5 Tuesday, June 14, 2011
“You know, bookstores don’t like it when you go in and start using Wite-Out.”

I got that response from an industry professional when I said I didn’t know if I could ever be “done” with a book.  And I’m sure it’s true.  Even if I’m the author, my local indie will not take kindly to me defacing their merchandize.  Not only that, but I could never get to all copies of my book before they got into the hands of unknown readers.

GIRL IN A DIAMOND COLLAR is about to come back to me from the copyeditor.  I have changes already in mind that need to be made.  Small things.  But they’re there nonetheless.  Brought up by the research I’m doing for Book 2.

So my fear is, what happens next?  What if I got my facts wrong?  What if I have a dream that Kitty really needs to say this one thing?  What if I have a brainstorm in the car for the most brilliant kiss in the history of YA and it will only work with these characters?  Yes, at that point, I can change it (if I want to pay from my own pocket for the changes).  But what about after the next step?  What about next year when I give a reading and realize, as the words come to my lips, that they really would have sounded better a different way?

How do I know when I’m done?

I don’t.

Once the book is bound and shipped, there will be nothing I can do to change it.

I won’t know that I’m done, but I will have to be.

Because of who I am and how I operate, this thought fills me with fear.  I am a bit of a control freak and more than a bit of a perfectionist.  I rewrite my e-mails. I take a breath and cross my fingers before I hit send.  Even when I’m writing to my sister.  I’m compulsive. 

I will probably never read my book after it’s printed.  I’ll flip through it, of course.  Feel the thrill of my words there on the page.  I’m very excited to do public readings – I love reading aloud.  But I won’t sit down and read it cover to cover.  That sounds painful.  (For me!  I hope you all read it.  It won't be painful for you!)

I will stop looking for facts that apply to the characters, situations and settings of the book. I will not (note to self: I will not) revisit locations for the express purpose of finding details I missed or descriptions I got wrong.  I will not mull over passages after a reading to figure out how they could have been written better. 

So this is how I know I’m done.  I feel like I did justice to the characters.  I have imagined the settings in my mind and illustrated them to the best of my ability with my words.  And perhaps not every phrase in the book sings, but there are a few – a choice few – of which I am inordinately proud.  Phrases that, were they in someone else’s book, I would read and say, “oh, I wish I had written that.” 

I also trust my editor completely.  Because of her, I trust the copyeditor.  If they say the book is ready, I will believe them.  I will take a breath, cross my fingers and let go.

And then I will be done.


The writer conundrum. It seems like we can always find something more to change or add. But I agree, that there comes a time when you have to accept the story as finished. And you gotta admit that must feel darn good! No more scrutinizing and far off stares. Just a smile knowing you gave it your best shot ever! :)

Sound advice. And perfect artwork to go with this subject! Looking forward to reading all sentences.

Sound advice. And perfect artwork to go with this subject! Looking forward to reading all sentences.

Thanks, Pk and PB! Support from other writers helps with letting go, too!

Oh, I like this. I do like a concrete, box-to-check-off-checklist for How to Know When Your Manuscript is Finished, but I love the criteria you listed.

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