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Finish Line Mirage: When Will It End?

imageAbout once every two months, I’m like: “Oh yeah, this is TOTALLY the last revision.  I’m done, damn it.  Done!”  Then I’ll close in on the end and shake my head. “No, you tiny fool.  You need to do this again.”  They’ll be adjustments in every scene for language and detail.  I’ll find weak dialogue and odd metaphors.  It’s nothing global.  I’m sculpting, and I can’t stop.  I’ve gone through this 135,000 word book at least twenty times–minimum.  It’s been almost two years.  I was supposed to be finished in June…then September.  Now, I’m hoping to finally say “done” by the new year; that is, with the manuscript.  If I’m lucky enough to attract the attention of an agent, I’m more than happy to go back to work, but I’ve got to cut myself off sometime. 🙂

Writers, how many times do you revise a book before saying, “Enough!”

Michelle Joyce Bond

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43 thoughts on “Finish Line Mirage: When Will It End?

  1. When I attended ThrillerFest last July, one of the writers lectured on the editing process and what each draft should be for. She gave specific guidelines of what to look for in each of five read-throughs. So with my current manuscript, I went through five revisions after I finished my first draft. Granted, there was some overlap in the read-throughs of what I was focused on, but I found by the time I finished, I felt comfortable querying an agent (which is what I’m doing now–still waiting to hear back from the first one I queried). Here’s the link to a summary of her talk if you’re interested: http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/what-to-look-for-when-editing-your-manuscript

      1. And for the record, these revisions don’t count the ones you do AFTER the editor has gone through it. With my first book, I did another few read throughs after my publisher’s editor made his suggestions and then again when the senior editor went through it.

  2. Oh, Christ… You’ve got my sympathy. Been through this hell, many times (with one damned book [off & on throughout 6 years]). Have you given yourself time to get away from it to get perspective?
    Anyway, best of luck.
    Daniel

    1. I did get away a little–every time a new school year started. 🙂 It helped whenever I came back to it. I always saw something new. I’ve heard of writers who revise to the point they hate their books, but luckily, I’ve never experience that.

      1. My plan for my next series is to finish book one, then put it away for 3 months while I work on a separate project. If I don’t have project #2 going I will go mad…
        😉

  3. Right there with you. Among the countless revisions I’ve done for my current WIP I’ve also re-written the entire thing nearly from scratch two times! At this point, I’m like you and have decided to just be firm with myself, and stop after…two more revisions. Haha I try to be disciplined about cutting myself some slack but sometimes I just can curb my perfectionism.

    1. I completely rewrote my last book as well! I feel like I learn a little more every time I write one. On this book, I did a lot more planning, but I still needed to work on a lot of the smaller craft pieces. Stay strong, fellow perfectionist. 🙂

  4. I can’t contribute to the question you posed (I’m yet to finish writing a book) but I wanted to say I enjoyed this post. It reminds of something Stephen King said about how he will write a book then leave the manuscript in a draw, “warts and all,” then comes back to it to do all his editing, but only after he’s written it all out. I’m rambling here, just admiring your accomplishment as a writer!

      1. It’s been a while since I read that one… It might be in there but I actually read it today in the forward to the first Dark Tower book. Do you have any advice you could toss my way? i don’t care if I’ve heard it before, the worst you could say is no I suppose.

      2. My absolute favorite craft author is Jessica Page Morrell. Check out her book, Thanks, But This Isn’t for Us. Even if you’ve never submitted a manuscript, it can help you avoid common mistakes. 🙂

  5. Stephen King’s book The Stand, had it’s word count seriously cut down before it’s first edition release, but many years later, after he was more established as a popular author, he was able to re-publish The Stand in it’s non-cut version, which is the version I read… It was really long, but really good….

    My point is, if you have committed so much time and energy into writing a long novel, if you do make massive word-count cuts, I think you should keep a document of the unabridged version of your story, in case you find a publisher and become a bestseller, and are given the opportunity someday to re-publish your book as you really wanted it to be published. Something like that would probably sell really well someday, especially if you become famous like Stephen King, or his wife and fellow-author Tabitha King!

      1. You never know! Tabitha King’s writing career has surely benefited from the success of Stephen, by association.

        I’ve noticed on twitter, when I used to still have one, that the spouses of some famous people, though not having done themselves things to make them famous like their spouse, oddly had an inordinate number of twitter followers, that I can only assume flocked to them because of their association with the more famous person.

        I’m sure there have been more than a few people who have bought Tabitha’s books and read them, out of curiosity because of being fans of her husband, and become fans of her writing through it.

        Maybe you will marry the next Stephen King, or maybe you are friends with authors /future-authors who if they become famous, could reblog one of your posts someday where you talk about publishing your book.

        I’ve seen that kind of thing happen with a woman I used to be interested in, who had a famous photographer friend, who retweeted one of her tweets asking for support for her non-profit photography organization, and she quickly received the funds she needed.

        In the information age we are in now, networking has been responsible for a lot of people’s rises to success, so you never really know!

        Sometimes help comes from high places, as the saying goes! There’s also a saying about having friends in high places, that actually carries more meaning these days. lol

      2. Ha–I never thought of that. Friends in high places wouldn’t hurt, I suppose. I like to imagine that if I ever got even a moderate following, I could help out my friends. 🙂

      3. That’s what I do, reblogging people’s poems sometimes, though my moderate following is only just approaching the 200 mark. I don’t care about being famous though personally, I just want to be able to provide/contribute to the income for my future family, doing what I love – writing. and if that means becoming famous, fine, but I’d definitely want to maintain a fair degree of privacy in my life, and not revel in celebrity status!

  6. The first novel I wrote is contained in 43 70-page college-ruled spiral notebooks and hand-written in gel ink (G2). It is currently resting–current word count is conservatively estimated at 1.1 million words. Some of it is amazing. Most is pretty dull. I was at it for nearly a decade. When I’m done with the current project I’m digging that monstrosity out and attempting to carve it into three heavily edited parts of a series. I think I’ve got a LOT of sculpting in my future, but I do think that at some point one has to just let ’em go. Easier said than done, of course.

  7. I’ve written only two books for children, which I rewrote may a dozen times. I rewrite my blog posts about half a dozen times. Good luck with your book project!

  8. The numbers of times you’ll re-edit is so close to infinite that only the brainiacs at CERN can attempt to identify it. In the event that you do finish, time-space itself would likely fold in upon itself and you’d have to start again from the beginning.
    Well, that’s what it feels like, sometimes!
    The best advice I’ve had is already here, I think: put it away for a while. Although that, too, can be tougher than giving up cigarettes!

  9. I actually had a bunch of my friends go through it the first time to help me edit. Then I went through each of their copies and made the alterations. So, a couple times. I’ve kind of lost track. Now, I’m just going through it for spelling errors. Otherwise, I’m done. It feels good.

  10. So true…when do you know that your book is finished. I totally agree with you that getting an agent and at the very least a prospect of a book deal is very motivating. Otherwise, when you keep sending out queries and sample chapters and get back “not for us” you wonder why not…and yet, reading is such a subjective matter.

    1. Agreed–and the best I can do is get as many of the people close to me to read it as possible so that I can get a good idea of what a range of people would say about the book. I’m still in the optimistic phase right now, but I’ve been through the rejection process with my last book. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck this time!

  11. Rejections can be very difficult on our motivation, especially if the agent or publisher doesn’t give us much of a clue as to why the book is not right for them. I have my own pile of rejections and I just have to hope that one day (soon) I’ll fall on someone who likes my work. And luck is also important. There are so many good books out there which get rejected and some pretty awful ones that do.
    Thanks for following my blog. I’ll do likewise for yours. It’s pretty interesting and I like your drawings.

  12. The skill contained in your writing and the absolute Joy I feel,when reading your beautifully punctuated words,makes your posts a delight to read.
    It’s amazing how ‘good punctuation’ can help relax a person into actually enjoying what one is reading.

    Although my punctuation can be at times sloppy,I do appreciate seeing it put to good use,by writers like yourself. Boy,If I didn’t have an editor,I would be stuffed! 🙂 ~Adam ~Peace

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