Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Indie Life - Fear of Finishing


It's the second Wednesday of the month and time for another posting of the Indie Life bloghop hosted by The Indelibles. Apologies for missing last month due to the A-Z Challenge, but kudos to those who worked it into their theme!

Today I'm talking about the thorny problem of knowing when you're finally finished with that magnum opus as an indie author. I do think most authors have trouble thinking of any book as complete even if it is bound, printed and on a shelf. But with a publishing contract you will have deadlines and at some point you will have to hold up your hands and relinquish your grip on that precious baby. For self-publishers, no such deadline exists. So how do we decide when it is ready, or at least ready enough?

I just started work on a new WIP this morning, what will be my fourth novel. None of the preceding three do I consider ready for publication. My first book was a heavily flawed learning process. It still holds a special place in my heart but I doubt I will revisit it. My second novel was the first time I enlisted outside help in the form of critique partners. It went through quite a transformation, but due to various factors this one is also  on the back burner. I lost a rewrite in a corrupted pen key, and I feel it would need a sequel in order to adequately resolve the story, and I don't feel I'm in the right place, nor do I have sufficient ideas to write that sequel.

My third WIP is currently with a couple of those same CPs, and I'll be contacting the others soon. I feel kind of bad after all their hard work on the last one came to naught, but this must happen all the time, right? I feel a lot more confident about this book - I just hope that feeling stays.

So, for you indie authors out there, how do you decide when that meisterwerk is ready to take its first steps out into the world? Is it just a feeling you have? Or because you'd rather smash your laptop against the nearest wall than attempt to change anything else? Ultimately, CPs notwithstanding, we have no one to give us that green light other than ourselves, and I've found myself to be quite a hard taskmaster. What's your experience?

Don't forget to check out the link at the top of this post to find more Indie Lifers!

30 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I guess deadlines do help those of us with publishers. I do have flexibility with when I send in the first manuscript, as my publisher only does one book deals. And I know when I'm done revising when I start changing things back to the original version.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick .. writing is always in a state of flux isn't it .. you did so well with the Overcoming Adversity lifechanging book .. and I do hope it helps Andrew ..

.. re getting books out there it's just writing, writing and writing and getting it done ... I applaud you as you work away .. all the very best.

Cheers Hilary

Julie Luek said...

Ah the obsessive details of rewrites and revisions. Best to you as you get this book ready-- sounds like you've already invested a lot of hard work into this "child".

Misha Gericke said...

I don't know. I just stopped when I knew I couldn't change anything without changing the book into something different.

Anne Lamott described editing as putting an octopus to bed. At some point, you know it's better to leave it with one flailing tentacle than trying to wrestle it under, because the others will come out then.

Hope that makes sense and helps you. ;-)

Deniz Bevan said...

Hmm, I'd like to know the answer to this question too! I think part of my problem is that even with CPs, but without an agent or editor, I just can't tell if my edits are going "deep enough", if that makes sense.

Deniz Bevan said...

Hmm, I'd like to know the answer to this question too! I think part of my problem is that even with CPs, but without an agent or editor, I just can't tell if my edits are going "deep enough", if that makes sense.

Cherie Reich said...

I think there comes a point when you just know. Either that, or you mentioned a deadline and feel obligated to get it out there by that deadline. Either work.

Are you still doing big picture edits? Then it's not ready. Are you changing a few sentences here and there? Then, you're probably ready to move to the next step. :)

L.G. Smith said...

And how much of not knowing if a work is finished is a confidence problem? People give me feedback that suggests the novel is working fine, but I'm always fidgeting, tinkering, and revising because I never think it's good enough. Blah, blah, blah!

I have given myself a deadline of er, well, this fall sometime to be done with this novel and get moving on publishing it! I mean it. I do. Really. We'll see. After maybe one more revision... :P

Annalisa Crawford said...

I'm never finished. I could happily rewrite for ever and ever. When a novel is rejected it gets revised, over and over. At some stage, someone holds my hand nicely and tells me it's done. Good luck with your new WIP :-)

Fe said...

Hello, Nick

That's the trick, isn't it? Knowing when the work is done and dusted. Well done on your latest creation and good luck...

Best regards

Felicity

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Nick,
I think writers are their own harshest critics.

Critique partners are very helpful in bring mss to a certain point and then we're on our own again.

When I get to feeling as if I'll lose my mind if I keep reading and I start putting in the commas I took out before, I know it's time to quit.

shelly said...

One, my critters let me know when they feel its good to go.

Two, I make deadlines for myself all the time. I have to. So far, I'm doing good with them.

Hugs and chocolate,
Shelly

Heather Holden said...

This is something I struggle with constantly as an artist. I never feel like my work is good enough, to the point where I always manage to tweak a picture to death! It's been easier for me to "let go" for my webcomic, since I do have a deadline for that, but it's still difficult. Sometimes the only way I can move on is by acknowledging that this is the best I can pull off at the moment, and the only way I can get better is by finally working on something new.

Anyway, good luck with your latest WIP! Will keep my fingers crossed that the writing goes well and that you'll feel confident to let go of it once that time comes!

J.L. Murphey said...

After you've edited your MS to the best of your ability, passed it through your critique group twice, when you've hired an independent editor and fixed ll the nits, when you can read the book verbatim from memory because you've read it too many times..are all good reasons to publish.

Michael Pierce said...

I guess I'm not the right person to ask because I released my first book a year ago...and in a few weeks I'll be re-releasing it with more edits and adjustments. I think that's one of the beauties of being an indie author...the freedom to do that. But I do get tired of looking at the same ms and have to move on to a new one. Good luck on WIP #4!

Shannon Lawrence said...

I like Misha's octopus analogy. Good luck to you as you figure this out and get these works done!

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Lara said...

If your critique partners are only offering superficial remarks about the story because you've already fixed the substantive things, and you're fiddling around with comma placement, I'd say you're ready to set it free.

Kyra Lennon said...

Deadlines are a great way of letting you know when you're done! :P But let your CPs guide you. When they have nothing new to offer you, you're probably done. The feeling inside yourself that it could be better never really goes away. Game On has been out almost a year, and I'm still twitchy about it!

Shah Wharton said...

I could still do a lot of work on my first published novel. I lie in bed and think of things I should have, could have done. It's even more tempting because I'm now editing the second in the series and wish I'd done certain things differently. The worst thing is, I don't expect this to stop.

It's the same kind of question as "How long is a piece of string?"

Accept this, and do your best. Acquire as much feedback as possible. Try to ensure all the arcs are completed and threads are tied up neatly. And well, thats it. Feel it.

Great to meet you, I'm here via the Indie Life meme.

Shah X

http://shahwharton.com

Shah Wharton said...

I could still do a lot of work on my first published novel. I lie in bed and think of things I should have, could have done. It's even more tempting because I'm now editing the second in the series and wish I'd done certain things differently. The worst thing is, I don't expect this to stop.

It's the same kind of question as "How long is a piece of string?"

Accept this, and do your best. Acquire as much feedback as possible. Try to ensure all the arcs are completed and threads are tied up neatly. And well, thats it. Feel it.

Great to meet you, I'm here via the Indie Life meme.

Shah X

http://shahwharton.com

Shell Flower said...

I can so relate to this post. I'm pretty much right where you are with my 3rd novel out to betas after many edits and starting a 4th. My first two novels are trunked, and I have doubts about the third, so I'm kind of dabbling at starting a 4th, but afraid to commit. I'm not sure if I'm done with #3 yet or not. It's a hard one.

Christine Rains said...

It's difficult to know when a story is ready. We all have our own doubts. CPs definitely help give you confidence that it is ready. I have a dozen manuscripts sitting on my shelf. Most will never likely be opened again because, like you, they were learning tools for me.

Julie Dao said...

Man, oh man, do I struggle with this, too! It's so hard to decide when a draft is "ready" - not even "done," but just ready to move on to the next step. I think at some point we just decide to let it go and see what happens. If it comes back (i.e. critique partners give too much feedback, dozens and dozens of queries sent out w/ no luck) then that's our sign to pick it up again.

cbwentworth said...

I don't think there's any catch-all theory for when its time to release our work into the wild. When you've made it the best you possibly can, I think you'll know when the time is right. :-)

Nick Wilford said...

Alex - I've heard that a lot - writers end up going back to the original after countless redrafts. Makes you think!

Hilary - Thanks! It was everyone else that made that book great. I agree it is hard draft that will get results.

Julie - Thanks. I do tend to get obsessive!

Misha - Ha, I like that analogy. An octopus would be hard to handle!

Deniz - Yeah, I see what you mean - are we missing some industry "gold standard"? But agents and editors are just someone else with an opinion - not sure they're necessarily more valid.

Cherie - You definitely can end up getting obsessive. And there's a lot to be said for living up to deadlines you've publicly announced!

Luanne - It's hard to ever feel it's good enough. But need to let it go sometime or risk insanity!

Annalisa - I'm glad you have someone to lead you gently away from the keyboard!

Fe - It probably comes down to gut feeling. Thanks!

Joy - Yeah, going round in circles is never good!

Shelly - Sounds like you're doing well! Nice to have such great CPs.

Heather - That's a good way to look at it. We can always come back fresh after some time on a new project.

Nick Wilford said...

Jo - I'll need to remember those!

Michael - I'm reading that very book now and don't see room for improvement! Hope the revisions go well though. :)

Shannon - It's a great image!

Lara - Fiddling can be good but not to a point of excess.

Kyra - I guess it's the dilemma of the job that we'll always feel things can be better, but I do think it's important to let that book out and have a life outside of you, as it were - it might surprise you!

Shah - Nice to meet you too! As long as we have done our very best, can't ask for more, can we?

Shell - I'm sure your betas will respond well and come up with some good advice. I do think it's important to keep writing as that's the only way to grow.

Christine - Nothing is wasted even if it's shelved, because it's part of learning.

Julie - Yeah, others' feedback (or lack of) is invaluable because we can really lose focus when going over something again and again.

CB - Our best is all we can do!

Cathrina Constantine said...

I'm one of those compulsive excessive people who's constantly rewording, exchanging sentences, paragraphs, and finding better or worse plot-lines. My first ms changed almost entirely in a 3 year span. That's how long it took me to complete or when an editor was finally interested. It astounds me when a writer finishes an ms in a few months time! How do they do that? You sound like a typical writer to me. Good Luck in your future success!

Maurice Mitchell said...

It's hard to let go of your baby Nick. Alex is right. You have to use deadlines to know when a project is over.

Crystal Collier said...

I think there's a magic point where it just feels like everything has fallen into place. Until I can sit back and not feel the itch to dive back in, I know it's not finished.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Wow, Nick, you are writing your fourth novel. I am never satisfied with what I have written, I have this bad habit of constantly tweaking and more tweaking.