Finishing Your Novel: how to know when you’re done writing your book


How do you know when you’re done writing your book?

Chances are it’s NOT done, and never will be, the same way a parent still sees a grown child as a work in progress. You’re always going to want to go back and fix something, some new idea that caught you in the middle of the night, long after the work was published or forgotten.

For instance, I wrote a poem about a year ago. I knew at the time that it had some good lines, but it wasn’t ready for outside eyes. I spent the next 6 months revising, adding, subtracting, moving commas around, until one day it just seemed right. I had that immense sense of satisfaction you get when the right words are in the right place.

Until… yesterday I was looking over this poem again before submitting it for publication, and lo and behold, the last 2 lines seemed wrong and something in the middle of the poem struck me as cliche. Ahhh! At least this time I wasn’t too far off the mark. Just a few minor tweaks to whip it back into shape. That satisfied feeling returned. But do I wait another 6 months and revise again? Do I submit it for publication now?

Is it finished?

Every writer has to judge this for themselves. In my case, the newly revised version of my poem works at this point (at least for me). It might break down on me down the road, but RIGHT NOW it’s something I’m proud of releasing into the wild. Sure, my tastes and style might change in the next 6-12 months, and I might find more things to tweak if I’d held onto it longer. But I don’t want to be a smothering parent. At some point, you gotta let the little birdies fly and see if they crash or soar on their own wings.

So now it’s time for that famous quote attributed to several famous people: “A work of art is never finished, merely abandoned.”

In the case of NaNoWriMo, you probably went into it with the expectation that your novel wasn’t going to be perfect. Here are a few criteria that you should consider before “abandoning” your book to the world:

1) Did you complete all the necessary story points included in your outline? If so, it’s ready.

2)  Did you take out any part of the book, any dialog, any descriptions that make you wince or cringe with shame? Moments of your book can be flat, boring, and otherwise unspectacular, but you want to get rid of the embarrassing stuff. If you’ve done so, it’s ready.

3) Have you made sure there are no continuity problems or logical missteps? Are the characters motivations believable? If so, it’s ready.

Great! We’d love to hear how it goes when you release your books into the wild. If you’ve written a novel as part of NaNoWriMo that you believe in, BookBaby would be honored to distribute it for Kindle, Nook, iPad, Kobo, and SonyReader.

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The End

Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."



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