Monday, November 13, 2006

How do I know when I'm done?

People who know I revise my work a lot from start to submission will often ask me how I know when I'm done. How do I know when it's time to stop revising?

The simple answer now may be "Because it's due." But that isn't the only answer. If I felt a book still wasn't the best it could be, I'd ask for an extension on the deadline, and in all likelihood, given my long history with my publisher, I'd get it. I'm not talking more than a couple of weeks here, and I've only done that maybe once or twice in several years, so it's not something I exploit, but that possibility does exist.

So how else do I tell?

I can get through a chapter in less than half an hour. That means I'm making very few changes. I may actually have more than one page in a row where I don't make any - always a delightful surprise.

I start changing things back to what they were before.

Every scene feels in the right place, at the right time.

The pacing of every chapter, every scene, every paragraph, feels right.

I'm so familiar with the book, I can remember the location of individual sentences in other parts of the book. That also means I'm so familiar with the book, if there's a problem, I'm probably not going to see it. It's time for fresh eyes.

So I input the final changes, print the manuscript off, and it goes to my editor. I'm not sure what a "beta reader" is, but I'm assuming it's a friend/colleague who supplies "fresh eyes." I don't have one and never have. Nor does it go to my agent first. I represented myself and worked with my editor before signing with her so while we do discuss my career, etc., the writing is pretty much between me and my editor.

And then I wait, with somewhat bated breath, for my editor's opinion. Being Rosie Revision means I don't fear revision notes as much as some. I don't get offended. I may think, "HUH? That's just so wrong!" But I also know that my editor's usually right. That's what the "fresh eyes" do -- find the flaws I can't, and I wouldn't have if I worked on the book for another year or two. If I think she's wrong, it's my job to be able to articulate why and convince her otherwise. If I can't, then there is indeed a problem I need to address, and a-fixin' I will go.

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