Part of the writing process is editing and revising, but how does a writer know when to stop perfecting the work?
For me, I would say it has to do with boredom.
After spending two years on my 2013 NaNoWriMo book, “The Money Finder,” now renamed, “In the Grace of Beautiful Stars,” I am done.
I wrote the draft in six weeks, barely making it to 51,000 words in November 2013 and tacking on another two weeks to write another 20,000 words and finish the story. I set aside the manuscript for two months, and then I made a revision, loving reading my story for the first time to see what I’d created. I’d written blind, not going back over my manuscript as I wrote, unless it was to fact check.
In the following months, I picked it up and set it aside, losing track of how many times I edited and revised my young adult novel about a 15-year-old girl who tries to use her money finding abilities to solve her family crisis.
If I had to guess, I would say it’s been at least a dozen. Timing myself, I know I spent an average of an hour per 10 pages (at a space and a half), clocking in an hour-and-a-half for that number of pages in the early part of the book and getting through 15 toward the end. It’s that way with everything I write. Could it be that once I get rolling and into the storytelling, I know what I’m doing? Or maybe it’s a matter of my becoming impatient and wanting to be finished with yet another revision.
Instead of cutting during the past couple of revisions, like editing is supposed to do, I ended up lengthening my manuscript each time. In the latest revision, I made a few cuts, but then I found gaps in scene, description and dialog markers (such as who’s saying what and the speakers’ gestures and expressions) and started filling them in.
My last three edits went from 79,100 words to 86,100 words to the most current of 91,500 words. I have 40 pages left on that edit and am anxious to get it done and not look at it again for a few months (except to start that long process of looking for a literary agent).
I found I’m doing more reading than work.
There were a few factual errors and gaps in scene. My characters magically got transported from one place to the next, or they didn’t do something necessary to carry forth the rest of the scene.
There were areas needing transitions and a few gaps, or those little spaces of writing I’d still hadn’t filled in as I hastily wrote and then revised for the writing elements of plot development, storytelling, arc, setting and character. I’d already looked and evaluated and analyzed all that stuff.
This time, it was down to the details.
And at that level, after all the larger picture work, it’s time to let go and realize the work is your best.
Of course, in a few months, maybe I’ll change my mind.
There is “The End” after all, both for the story and the telling of that story.
Enough is enough.