6 Criteria for Knowing You’re Done Writing Your Novel

 It never feels quite perfect; that’s why it’s good to have an objective way of knowing you’re done


How to know when you’re done writing your novel

How to know when you're finished with your novelWhen you finish writing the first draft of your manuscript, there’s a damn good chance that your novel is NOT done. In fact, if you expect your novel to be a work of permanent perfection, it probably never will be “done.”

Think of yourself more like a parent who will inevitably still see a grown child as a work in progress. Ten years later, after professionally editing and publishing your novel, you’ll wake in the middle of the night with some new idea for the book. “Ahh,” you’ll think. “How could I have missed that? It would’ve made a huge difference! But oh well. No going back now.”

Sure, you could just wait ten years to publish your novel, but who’s to say that after twenty years you won’t have the same “how could I have missed it” experience? There comes a time when “good enough” is good enough. So how do you know when you’ve reached that point?

Is it finished?

Every writer must answer this question for themselves. As you mature as an artist and have new life experiences, your tastes are going to change, which also means your opinion of your own work will change too. It’s pretty common to be embarrassed by a book you wrote even a few years earlier. But a book, in addition to its contents, is a record of where you were at in your own development as an author. In order to know how far you’ve traveled, you’ve got to put down some mile markers (in the form of… published writing).

So one good way to know if you’re finished writing your novel it is to ask yourself: is this something I’d be proud to release into the wild RIGHT NOW? Sure, my tastes and style might change in the next few years, and I might find more things to tweak if I hold onto it longer. But I don’t want to be a smothering parent. At some point, I gotta let the little birdies fly and see if they crash or soar on their own.

You might know this quote (it’s been attributed to several famous people):

“A work of art is never finished, merely abandoned.”

With that in mind, here are a few criteria that you should consider before “abandoning” your book to the wide world of readers:

1) Did you complete all the necessary story points included in your outline?

2)  Did you take out any part of the book, any dialog, or any descriptions that make you wince or cringe with shame? Not every moment in your book has to be spectacularly compelling, but you want to get rid of the embarrassing stuff (especially cliches).

3) Have you made sure there are no continuity problems or logical missteps?

4) Do the characters have believable motivations?

5) Have you enlisted beta readers, a writing group, a workshop, or a developmental editor to help you trim the fat and enhance the strengths of your novel?

6) Does the beginning of your novel feel like something that will invite or compel people to keep reading?

If you answered yes to all six of these questions then you might be ready to publish your novel.

If so, check out our “Book to Book Launch” timeline to see what other steps are involved in writing, editing, publishing, promoting, and selling your novel. And remember, BookBaby would love to help you take your writing and publishing pursuits to the next level. Check us out HERE.

Chris RobleyAbout Chris Robley

is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard’s Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of “Short Works Poetry.”

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