Author Topic: Final Draft?  (Read 2730 times)

Mr. Tweedy

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on: October 17, 2007, 04:45:49 PM
I have a writing question for those of you who have succeeded in getting paid for their words: How do you decide when you're done?

Basically, I have a draft of a story that I think is pretty good, but I know that I can continue to reread and tweak and reread and tweak forever and ever, through a thousand drafts, and I will still find things to change in the 1000th draft.  Even when I read my own favorite books, I can still find places where I think it could be better: "Lewis, that would have been a lot easier to understand if you'd broken it up into three paragraphs."

It seems like "done" has got to be an arbitrary point, because it's doubtful you'll ever reach a point of perfection.  How do you go about drawing that line?

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Reply #1 on: October 17, 2007, 06:25:13 PM
There's two different things that help me know when I'm finished with a story.  The ideal is when I'm satisfied that the story I wrote is the story I wanted to write.  You can't please everyone, but you should be happy with the story when you're done.  This sounds like a simple concept, but I've been writing for about 12 years now and I only just figured it out last year (or perhaps, only learned to trust myself then).  I've put stuff out there that some of my trusted beta-readers told me I should add stuff to or cut stuff from.  But I was happy with what I'd done, and confident that the story was finished. 

The other is if a deadline's driving it.  In that case, turn in the absolute best thing you can by the time of the deadline, and then let it go. 

In your case, Mr. Tweedy, I think you just need to figure out if you set out to tell the story you wanted to tell.  If not, go back and work on it some more.  There's obviously a fine line between knowing when the story's finished and ignoring good feedback (hmm, actually sometimes maybe they're the same thing) but I think it comes with experience.

Hope this helps some.


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Reply #2 on: October 19, 2007, 02:22:14 AM
For me, a story is done when one of two conditions is met.

1) The story is as good as I can possibly make it at this point in time.

2) The thought of working on it any further makes me want to cry.

For 1, "at this point in time" is important.  I know that a few months later I will find a sentence I wish I'd realized needed to be fixed.  But I will go over the manuscript obsessively as many times as possible and fix everything that seems to need fixing before I send it out.  This is a lot of work.  But it's worth it.

In my experience, every time I've said, "Well, this isn't really a big deal, no one will notice it," every single reader has homed right in on it.

If you find yourself endlessly fixing something and never moving on to another project, stick a fork in it.  Either put it away and come back to it a few months down the line (if you really feel it has problems) or send the puppy out (if on every pass you're removing commas and then putting them back next time, or something similar).  Move on to the next thing.

I don't know if your cycle of fixing things forever is due to not wanting to move on, or due to problems that you're seeing but don't quite know how to fix yet. Or because you're a naturally slow reviser--there's nothing wrong with that.  Either way, putting something away for a few months and working on something else rarely goes amiss.  Distance lends perspective and all that.

2 is pretty much self explanatory.  There are a few stories of mine that I know have problems but I've sent them out anyway, because I knew that never in my life would I be willing to do any further revision on them.  One of them sold, actually, and another one is out doing the rounds.  You'll know when this happens, and when it does, trunk the thing or send it out, and forget it.


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Reply #3 on: October 23, 2007, 06:49:29 PM
I'm actually finding myself in that same black hole of revision right now, so the advice here is really helpful.  Thanks to the OP for asking the question, and to everyone who gave input.