When is a Novel Truly Finished? Seriously, I’d Like to Know!

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When is a Novel Truly Finished? Seriously, I’d Like to Know
By Debbie Ridpath @ inkygirl.com

“They” say that writers are never quite done editing their novel, that there can always be some bit of tweaking or full on rewriting to perform. But at some point you need to know when it’s time to end the rewrite process. I’m not even sure I know when that moment is exactly, after rewriting a few chapters, deleting stuff, and having a professional editor go over it.

Honestly, I hate reading something on my laptop. When I tried to use my iPad to read a book I purchased, I never bothered to finish. There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned book printed on something called paper. Know what I mean? I know there will be a time soon when everything will be digital. I know there will be a time when we will no longer have printed newspapers circulated. But, I still subscribe to the Los Angeles Times and I have it delivered to my door. I can’t help it. Call me old-fashioned.

Nonetheless, I do read a ton of stuff online. But when it comes to trying to see if my novel is finally polished, I have to print it out. So, I killed some trees after my editor sent me my revised novel. I’ve got two novels currently being edited by two separate editors. Yeah, I know…I wasn’t expecting to do them at the same time. It just so happens that things fell into place sort of all at once. I wouldn’t advise trying to edit two books at once, FYI.

Anyway, one is done; my second one I wrote just after my daughter was born. The first novel still currently being worked on my other editor, I finished back in 2010. You never know when it’s time to resurrect a manuscript you set aside because of personal reasons. I shelved my first novel because it was painful, but I dusted it off after attending a writer’s conference at the end of January. An agent there asked to see it. Which of course, doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything. Needless to say, using painful experiences to fuel your writing can be cathartic, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult.

And even though my second novel isn’t something that should make me anxious, I’m finding myself feeling nervous having to read it all the way through after the edits. I don’t know why. Maybe because I fear after stepping away from it and looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes, that I might have to go back and fix things still? Maybe I’m worried that despite it being completed it is still not good enough? Perhaps I worry about my own inner critique, the one that is never quite satisfied with my own work. Will my inner voice tell me it’s no good?

As I’ve said before, and have heard many writers reiterate, that writing a novel or novels is the easy part. The challenge is the revisions that follow and knowing when it’s truly finished. Inside, we all have a gut feeling, and I think we’ll know when we know. So, as I said, I killed a few trees today and had it printed and bound at FedEx. This latest revision puts my novel at 244 pages including the cover, approximately 64,000 words which is shorter than it originally was, but that’s okay. I printed it one-sided as opposed to double sided because it’s easier to make notes this way.

I also completed reading The Shack, by William Paul Young yesterday and have moved on to Damned, by Chuck Palahniuk. Juxtaposing both books, one can’t be more different from the other. Young writes from a Christian perspective about a character who talks to God. The plot’s tone comes across as preachy. Meanwhile, Palahniuk writes from the perspective of a dead and cynical 13-year-old girl who discovers she didn’t make it to heaven.

You might think my taste in books is a bit peculiar, but what can I say? I’m a rather odd one. Sometimes I crave sushi, other times I crave American. I enjoy my steak medium rare, and then eventually decide to see what a vegetarian diet feels like for a week, just for the hell of it. You can’t put me in a box, that’s for sure, and when I’m filling out job applications, I often have to check more than one box in the ethnicity section. After all, I’m an American Mutt as diverse as most of you.

The Bottom Line:

And now, with nervous jitters and all, I think it’s time to sit Palahniuk’s Damned down for now, hoping I’m not too damned as I crack open my own book. This week, I’ll be reading my own novel. Let’s hope it’s complete. If not, well, there are always more rewrites.

Barry Hannah


20 thoughts on “When is a Novel Truly Finished? Seriously, I’d Like to Know!

    marymichaelschmidt said:
    April 10, 2017 at 8:08 AM

    Reblogged this on When Angels Fly.

    Liked by 1 person

    mwlange said:
    April 10, 2017 at 1:27 PM

    I can feel your pain. I’m going through my novel drafted a couple years back, and I’ve learned so much in the meantime that I’m doing way more rewriting than I originally anticipated. Added to that are the mistakes and plot holes I never caught on the first rewrite, and the process is sometimes painful (because self-doubt for me includes self-censure). However, I’ve promised myself that after I get it ready and send it off to an editor, this is the last time I will change any of it.

    Personally, I am looking forward to whenever you publish. You are the master of your own schedule, so whatever time you ultimately decide to publish will be right.

    Liked by 1 person

      Sonyo Estavillo said:
      April 10, 2017 at 3:22 PM

      Yeah, I know what you mean about self-doubt. I totally agree that when ever our novel is done with final rewrites, that will be the right time. Every work is different, it takes a lot of growing and learning as a writer.

      Liked by 1 person

    The Informal Matriarch said:
    April 10, 2017 at 5:17 PM

    This makes me nervous and excited to write a book. I feel like there’s one in my future.

    Liked by 1 person

    Daria Kill said:
    April 11, 2017 at 7:01 AM

    I print everything out, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    cherryluxe said:
    April 11, 2017 at 10:54 AM

    I feel this on so many levels

    Liked by 1 person

      Sonyo Estavillo said:
      April 11, 2017 at 11:09 AM

      It’s hard to know when you’re “done” with any creative project. I guess, we all reach a point when we “just know.” Hopefully, I’ll be reaching that point soon. 😉


    Ipuna Black said:
    April 11, 2017 at 5:29 PM

    That’s the magic question. When is novel finished???? Never? Ha ha. You have to push past fear and submit at some point. Right??? Ugh. ❤️​📚​

    Liked by 1 person

    Writer’s Ink Challenge – Ipuna Black said:
    April 12, 2017 at 10:44 AM

    […] Sonyo @ Lil Pick Me Up […]

    Liked by 1 person

      Sonyo Estavillo said:
      April 12, 2017 at 11:06 AM

      Thanks for tagging me & congrats on the blog contest win. 🙂


    The Scriptorium Keeper said:
    April 12, 2017 at 5:55 PM

    That experience must be so nerve wracking!!! If your book is as well put at this blog, I think you’ll be fine!

    Liked by 1 person

    SonniQ said:
    April 13, 2017 at 6:50 PM

    I finished my first draft 90,000 words and printed it out. Then I royally smashed my arm into crushed Ritz Cracker sized pieces. Lots of metal and screws holding it together now. My left hand was an alien appendage. No typing for me. So I took the time to read and study the craft the writing while the healing began. OMG! I found that writing a blog is not the skill set needed to write a book, like the difference between learning to play the piano and composing music (which I do) 6 months of healing and learning to use my bionic arm gave me the time to slow down. I had no choice, really. What was the rush, anyway? Now, with the help of a story editor to understand what I’m trying to say, I’m finding the missing pieces and I’m having so darn much fun with it. There is nothing quite like changing carers – again – at 62 and doing something new. Life is for the living. Many people forget that as they age.

    Liked by 1 person

      Sonyo Estavillo said:
      April 13, 2017 at 7:33 PM

      Wow, I hope that your arm is better now. Yikes! So glad that you have a story editor helping you. ❤


    Fairy Queen said:
    September 22, 2021 at 1:24 AM

    Sometimes when I watch a film I am left with the question: “and after?” And that happens to me also with novels. But I myself often do not know how to put an end to a story because what happens then? It’s really bad to finish things.


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