Monday, July 6, 2009
When are you done with your novel?
You come up with an idea, you plan your story (or not), you write your chapters, and at some point you have a first draft.
That version likely won't be ready to publish, so how many iterations does it take to say it's done?
I'd like to say there is a magic number, but there isn't. When you are a beginning writer, it might take 10 iterations to be publication ready. When you have been writing for a long time, it will probably take less, but it might not. If you are really lucky the first draft may good enough, but I highly doubt it.
It takes a lot of iterations because the novel will evolve as you write. There may be scenes at the beginning of the novel, that no longer make sense as the story changes. During editing and revision, those scenes have to be ripped out, or modified.
Some writers iterate on the first chapter until it's good enough to publish, then move onto chapter 2. Once they finish chapter 2, they move onto chapter 3.
I couldn't write this way. I would never finish.I'd be so busy going back and making changes to the beginning all the time, that I'd never reach the end.
I think you're much better off to write a rough version of the complete story, and revise it until it works. Throw out the parts that don't make sense anymore. Revise the parts of the story that suck. Make the language as tight as you possibly can. In between iterations, set the book on the shelf for a while.
So back to my question, when do you know that you're done?
I wait until the book has been left on the shelf for a few weeks, and start reading it through. If I smile when I read it, and I don't immediately make changes to every line, I'm done.