To me, knowing when you’re story is finished–that is, ready to go to your critique group or an agent or editor–is the $64,000 question. How do we know?

In one of my Find a Publisher training series videos, I present a checklist that helps me determine when a manuscript is ready to send out. And it helps. But there’s still some subjective criteria I apply sometimes, like:

  • Am I completely sick of it?  🙂  This isn’t always the best reason to release a manuscript into the world, but sometimes it’s a factor. Depending on how long I’ve been working on a project, this little indicator may mean I need to set it aside for awhile and come back later with fresh eyes, or it may mean I’m close to over-revising/rewriting.
  • Am I feeling that oo-la-la feeling? This may be the opposite of the above, but not always. I can be tired of a project, but still have that “Yes!” feeling that tells me I’ve got something special. That, coupled with a sense that I’ve reached my revision tipping point (see below), tells me it’s a go.
  • Have I reached the revision tipping point? This is a very fine line for me, a line that doesn’t remain fixed. It relies on intuition mostly, a sense that if I keep revising, I’m going to have diminished returns. Sometimes I realize it after I’ve “over-revised,” in which case I may go back and recover a previous version of the paragraph, scene, or chapter. But often I start getting this feeling that I’ve done enough, so I stop.

Of course, depending on the stage I’m in, I will repeat this process—after my critique group gives me feedback, followed by my agent, then the acquiring editor. But there is time in between to move to other projects and come back to it with fairly fresh eyes, which is always a good thing.

Do you have any special cues that tell you when a story is finished? Share them!

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