There is a triumphant moment at the end of every first draft when you finally get to type “the end.” If you’ve ever finished a draft, you know it can be pretty amazing. But you also know it’s just the start of the revision process. Because the reality is, you’re book still has a long way to go before it can be considered “finished.” It takes a lot of work and a lot of revision, editing, and rereading before you’ll have a book that’s good enough to let others read or try to get an agent or editor.
As a writer, it’s likely that you’ll find something you can improve in your book every time you read through it. At some point though, you have to stop working and start sharing and/or submitting. But it can be hard to know when that time has come, especially when you can always find something to fix. So how do you know when your book is done and ready to submit?
Here are six tips to help you determine if it’s time to finally stop working on your manuscript and send it out in the world.
1) You’ve gone through everything in this post
If you’ve gone through every area on this list and find that you’re no longer making substantial changes, then it may be a sign that you’ve done all you can on this project. There’s no reason to create more work for yourself or create problems if they don’t exist. If you can’t find an issue in any of these categories, it might be because your book is done.
2) Your early readers are out of suggestions
When the people you trust most with your early work have nothing else to add, there’s a good chance it’s because this book is as good as it can be. This is especially true if you have excellent early readers who have been incredibly helpful to you. If the people you trust are saying they don’t have any more suggestions, then it’s probably time for you to stop working and set your book free!
(Need help finding some early readers? Check out this post.)
3) You start making lateral changes
When you start changing out words or revising scenes and find that the changes aren’t necessarily better, they’re just different, it may be time to step back. The point of revision and editing is to make your book better. If you’re making you’re book different instead of better than you’re wasting your efforts. And if you keep making these types of changes, you run the risk that you’ll overwork your book and end up making it worse.
4) You truly believe your book is the best you can make it at this point
There may be a few scenes or sentences that still feel a little off to you, but that doesn’t mean your book isn’t “done.” In fact, it might be a sign that it’s ready for a professional. Your book doesn’t have to be perfect to get an agent or an editor. In fact, if you get an agent and/or editor, they will almost definitely have suggestions and notes for you. Once you reach a point where it feels like you have done your best, and your book is as good as you can possibly get it, it’s time to send it out.
5) The last couple of times you read through it, the only corrections you made were proofreading errors/typos
There will always be typos and there will always be proofreading errors. Agents and editors know this. You definitely want to read your book through several times and get it as polished as it can be, but once you reach the point where these issues are your only problems, it’s time to start sending it out. If you’re waiting until you have a read through that’s completely clean of any errors, you may never see your book published. If you read your book two or more times, and the only changes you’re making are grammar and typos, it’s time to start submitting.
6) You’re obsessing over the smallest details.
Similar to the point above, if you find yourself getting hung up on commas or word choice, it’s time to let you book fly. Your book is never going to be perfect and agents and editors don’t expect it to be–especially at this stage. Do everything in your power to make your manuscript as clean as possible, but know that a typo, misplaced comma, or a poorly chosen word isn’t going to be the thing that stops you from getting published. Don’t hold yourself back by waiting for perfection. If you’re obsessing about the small details, that means you’re probably satisfied with the story and all of the bigger, more important issues. And if that’s the case, then it’s probably time to declare your book “done.”
As always, I hope this helps!
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Now it’s your turn: How do you know when your book is finished? What’s been the biggest struggle in declaring a book done? Do you ask someone else to decide for you? Tell me about it in the comments!