IWSG Asks: When do you know your story is ready?
That is an incredibly difficult question to answer. I know each writer will have a different answer and there is no right or wrong one. It all depends on the individual writer, their personal experience and knowledge, how much writing practice was involved before writing this particular story and so on.
For me, each individual story varies. I write in stages.
First stage…The rough draft
Sometimes, the words flow with ease and other times I have to practically bleed upon the page. Some first drafts can be written extremely fast. My personal record is an 80,000 word novel in a week. I've only ever managed that incredible feat once in my life and that was before I had kids or even a job! I had nothing but time back then, in my younger days. Yeah, I was a teenager when I wrote that one. No actual skills or expertise, just gut instinct and nothing to do all day but write. We didn't have cell phones back then either!
More recently, I did manage to write 30,000 words in a week. That was incredible fun! I was on such a writing high which I hadn't experienced in a really long time. However, my family didn't appreciate me ignoring them for hours. They kept interrupting me to complain about dirty dishes and filthy laundry. And, please, could someone just tell me, why do people need to eat every day, all day long? My family insists on being fed, like 3 times a day! And they expect me to cook for them! I could probably live on take-out or cereal for every meal for at least a week, but my husband frowns upon that sort of thing.
If I can manage about 50,000 words in a month, I'm thrilled! I'm lovin' stories like that! NaNoWriMo is great for these stories. Again, my family doesn't particularly like it. I broke the news to my husband the other day that I was planning to participate in this year's writing event. He wasn't pleased. I bowed out of the last few NaNoWriMo's because of the stress it sometimes brings, but this year I have a story prepared…ready and plotted…except for the…ehem…ending. Still working on that.
Those are the exceptions, however, for my typical writing. Usually, it takes much longer for me to write a story. Somewhere between 6 months to a year, sometimes even two years. Because I'm a panster, I don't have any idea where the story will end up. Or I'll have an ending, but not a beginning. It's normally one or the other. There are many times that I keep writing until the story fades in my imagination, where I'll come to a sudden stop and not have any idea what happens next. Either I work it out in some way, or I take a break from it and move on to either editing or writing another story. In this way, I always have two WIP's going at all times.
Second Stage…The Waiting Period
(also known as the Cooling Down Stage)
Once that first draft is written (Hallelujah!), I take the family out for ice cream. It's a time for celebration. And since I need all the encouragement I can get, having my kids tell me what a great job I did writing a story they know nothing about so they can have an ice cream cone smothered with sprinkles is praise indeed.
Also, I need to set the manuscript aside and not even think about it for at least a month or two or three. I need to distance myself from my writing so when I come back to it, I'll read it with fresh eyes. Usually, I begin writing another story. Or I take some time to read someone else's books. I have an unbelievably long TBR pile that sits on my bookshelf taunting me with great adventures every time I walk by it.
Third Stage…The Edits & Revisions
Eventually, I go back to my manuscript and start edits and revisions. Depending on the story, these can take longer than the actual first draft writing. It can be frustrating work, especially if I've found a problem with the story that needs extensive fixing. Like I said before, each story is different, so the time from start to finish varies. It could take a month. Or it could take a year.
I think I'm finished when I've corrected all the issues that I can find in the manuscript. When I've gone over it several times, made all the adjustments that I think it needs. I've checked for plot holes, loose ends, grammar and spelling, made sure all the characters continue throughout the story with the same hair and eye color, stuff like that. I have a checklist of items that I go through with each manuscript. This is time-consuming and exhausting! Especially since I keep adding to the checklist, but I've found that it strengthens the writing and makes it look much more professional when I send it to my editor.
Fourth Stage…The Incredible Self-Doubt
After all of that, I think it's ready. Maybe. I might wait another month, then read it again. Could be I'll find something else that needs fixing. I'll imagine that I'm my audience, trying to see my story through their eyes. Mostly, I'll be so tired of reading it over and over again that I can't bear the thought of reading it again and I'll wonder why anyone else would want to read it. I'll question my sanity, or more...my decision to ever begin a writing career in the first place.
After a day or two of paralyzing self-doubt, I'll put my big girl pants on and tell myself to get over it. I've been writing more than half of my life, it would be time wasted to quit something like that now because of my insecurities. What's the worst that can happen?
Then I send it to my editor.
The next day, I take my kids out for ice cream again. I told you, I need all the encouragement and praise I can get.
Fifth Stage…The Publishing Process
There are 2 scenarios after I send the manuscript to my editor. Either she likes it and contracts it, or she'll send suggestions for revisions. As soon as I sign the contract, we go through rounds of edits where she'll find all the things I've missed. And no matter how many drafts I worked on previously, she still finds things that need to be addressed. We'll go through 1 to 3 rounds of edits before she declares it done and at that point my brain will feel like mush that I'll agree to anything she says.
Yes, I guess by then…it's ready!
Of course, that's just me. Every writer is different.
On the day of my book's release, my family and I celebrate with…you guessed it…a lovely and usually expensive meal at a local restaurant...
...and then ice cream.
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