How to tell when you're finished writing your manuscriptThere's that famous adage about the novelist never being able to finish a book, only abandon it to the public.

Sometimes it's hard to know when you're really done writing and revising your book, story, or poem. You could easily tweak your manuscript forever, draft after draft, and still end up asking yourself every time, "is this version any better than the last?"

It can be one of those things: the tighter you grip, the more it slips away. You lose perspective, and by then you've traveled so far from the original idea that you can't even tell if you want to keep walking down this road.

If you've entered what Thomas Lee calls "The Black Hole of Revision," here are a few ways to tell whether your work is finished or not.

1. Submit it —

It's not called "submission" for nothing. Eventually you have to stop fighting.

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The most helpful bit of editing advice I ever got was from poet Michele Glazer. She said, "revision IS writing."

In other words, there's no difference between the "writing" process and the editing process. You don't just write a draft, make some changes, correct the spelling, and call it good.

As a writer, you need to be open to new ideas that may occur during the revision process, and be brave enough to follow them  — thus, leading you back into a writing mode. See? Revision IS writing, so it's best to just accept that fact upfront.

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How to Write a Second DraftThe anxiety-relieving, blueprint-building, creativity-unleashing second draft

[This article is written by guest contributor Virginia McCullough, co-founder of The Book Catalysts]. 

It’s done! Your first draft, with all your best ideas, information, and advice finally on paper. What a terrific accomplishment.  We’re advocates for the fast and furious first draft and doing whatever it takes to get a draft down in short order and without stopping to edit or polish.

But now what?

Completing the first-draft stage can lead to anxious moments. One of our clients produced a first draft by writing almost daily over a period of three months. She achieved this by carving out 20 to 40 minute stretches in her already busy schedule. “It was an exhilarating time,” she told us, “but now I look at my draft and wonder what to do with this mess. It’s my baby, but now I wonder how I’ll ever be able to edit these clunky pages.”

Good news. She doesn’t have to think about editing. Not yet. And if you have a first draft completed, neither do you. Instead, it’s time for a second draft. Sure, a lucky few produce fairly well-behaved first drafts, meaning they wrote the information in roughly the same sequence it will appear in the book.

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I'm flawed. You're flawed. We're all flawed.

You know the feeling. Someone critiques your writing; you flash them the evil eyes and think, "You complete moron! You've missed the point of my piece entirely, and of course you did-- you're an idiot and I hate everything you've written anyways, so what do you know?"

First you wish them bodily harm, then you start scheming your revenge, and then finally you think to yourself "Hmmm. Maybe they have a point?"

The other day I posted a link to a Poetry Foundation article about the worth of MFA programs. While I've never been "officially" enrolled in any creative writing program, I did take three MFA workshop classes in poetry as a post baccalaureate at Portland's lovely State University when my schedule (and $$!!!) allowed.

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Award-winning novelist SJ Rozan and BookBaby president Brian Felsen sat down at the 2011 California Crime Writers Conference to talk about her creative process, how technology has changed the conversation with publishers, and the tricks that create a memorable book.

In this segment, SJ Rozan gives advice on how writers can use a process of iterative revisions (similar to the editing methods I mentioned in my article "How to Edit While You Write: 3 Tips to Balancing Progress with Perfectionism") to stay productive and precise in their prose writing.

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