When Do Writers Stop Writing? by Erika Wassall
So we’re writers… right?
And we write…
And then we write some more.
The problem is, sometimes it’s hard to STOP writing and say… okay, it’s done.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean “Done” as in you’ll never alter anything about it ever again. My title is of course not realistic. We never stop writing. And we’ll revise again and again with editors or agents.
But at some point, we have to decide, it’s ready to be submitted.
This is tough for a lot of us. We may have been working on something for years, and it’s evolved, morphed and been not just revised but re-envisioned (a term I took from Jill Corcoran’s videos) so many times. And each time, it’s become better, stronger and more complete.
We could go on with that forever, and it would just keep getting better… right?
But there is a line. There comes a point where we have to make the leap of faith and start submitting our work. Sometimes easier said than done.
I can’t tell you when your work is done. I’m not sure anyone can. Some people are lucky, they can just “feel it”.
Me? Sigh. I wish.
Not at all. I’m ALWAYS left thinking… maybe one more person’s critique will help, or maybe one more re-write of the this paragraph will be even better!
I like to have a checklist. It gives me a good basis for being sure I haven’t missed anything major:
1) First round of revisions – this is usually checking for consistency and flow, because my first drafts are a bit… rough.
2) Time off – serious time off, usually a month
3) The big change – almost all of my manuscripts have at some point had some major change or revision that has made things click. Some have had more than one. For me, it’s an important part of my process.
4) More revisions and feedback from other writers and people I trust.
5) Falling apart at some point and thinking it’s not any good. For me, if this hasn’t happened at least once, I’m not done. This usually leads to another short spurt of time off, a week or so of ignoring all writing-related thoughts.
6) The writer in me wins out and I dive back in.
Then I usually sit here in this stage for a while, bouncing around in revisions, critiques, thoughts etc. Problem is: me? I could sit here forever. At some point, I just have to pull the darn trigger!
If I can look back and know that I did right by myself and the story I have to tell, it’s time to start narrowing down the list of agents I’m going to target.
Plus, at this point, I usually have a few new ideas percolating in the brain, so they’re a good distraction to keep myself from revising that sentence just one more time.
Am I saying this is a good checklist for other people?
NOT AT ALL.
I think everyone’s checklist/process is different. But I do think it can be helpful to have some sort of checklist in your mind, to go through whatever steps you need as a writer and individual to make your manuscript the best it can be.
I have one final step after the checklist. This is usually the only way I’ve ever able to draw that intimidating line of saying IT’S READY NOW:
Create a deadline!
I can never quite get to the point where I say, “It’s done NOW.” But I AM able to say, “It’ll be done in a month.” And then stick to that.
And then I have to just tell myself, that’s it. It’s ready. I have to trust myself and commit that that’s my Final Answer.
An exciting time for sure, but finishing a manuscript and sending it out into the world often holds it’s share of anxiety of uncertainty. But it’s an important part of the process and guess what…
… your manuscripts deserve it!
Thanks Erika for another valuable post.
Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!