Am I Done Yet?

Photo by Eden Constantino on

My title reminds me of me and my brothers in the back, and way-back seats of my parents’ green Plymouth station wagon driving from Central Mass to Niagra Falls in the early 80s. “Are we there yet?” we chorused from the rear. My parents vowed, not for the first or last times in our young lives, to never take us on a car-trip vacation again!

No, but what I’m really thinking about today is writing books. How do you know when you are done writing your book? Are you ever done? When do you put down the pen, or close the laptop, and say definitively, “this is as good as it will ever get”?

I have written four books so far in my series, “McKinney High Class of 1986.” I have read each one at least ten times. Each time I read, I tweak the dialog, or turn some narrative into dialog, or take out extraneous filler words. I don’t think I have gotten through even one manuscript so far where I couldn’t find something to change.

Finally, I sent Book 1, May I Have Your Attention Please, to the editor. But like I mentioned before, I had to send it two more times after that, because it just wasn’t perfect yet! But I’ve finally let go. Book one is in someone else’s hands right now, and I just hope she doesn’t find too many mistakes or inconsistencies! In the meantime, I have forbidden myself to even look at that text. Doesn’t stop me from collaborating with my marketing manager and cover designer, but, you know, my big part is done.

Yesterday, I started to read Book 3 again. I had just finished re-reading Book 2, on the tail of re-reading Book 4, and then doing some formatting on them both. So, I sat down to look at Book 3, for the 12th time. And what I saw was discouraging. The first three chapters almost bored me to sleep! I was just giving information, no story. I was trying to keep the reader a recap of what happened in Book 2. I was worried the reader would forget what happened and be lost. But in the meantime, the reader would nod off, drop Book 3 on the floor, and never get to the juicy parts. So, I had to re-write. Not all of it, but I had to chop it up into pieces. This is never easy. The words on those pages are kind of sacred to me. Deleting a line that doesn’t work HURTS a bit. But it hurts less than someone telling you that your first three chapters suck.

So, I made the changes. And I’m sure they won’t be the last changes I make. I have had one person read Book 3 so far, and he liked it (thanks to my brother/alpha reader) so no real feedback yet. I want to get feedback, but I also want it to be GOOD! So how do I know when I’m done? I have no idea. Faith? Maybe. Personal deadline? More likely. But once it’s done, it’s done, and it’s forever. Except for the fact that I can still reprint an edit. So yeah, maybe it will never be done!

If there is anyone out there who would like to be a beta reader for my series, please let me know. It’s a bit of a commitment. There are 4 books, and you miss quite a bit if you don’t read them in order. There’s no pay for being a beta, except for the satisfaction of knowing you helped, and maybe your name in the acknowledgements! Leave a comment or send me an email if you are interested.

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