Done, Not Done and Taking a Leap

Writing Tips Confrontation makes me squirm. I hear myself smoothing ruffled feelings, jumping back and forth to settle my feet in someone else’s shoes and trying to see different perspectives.

That ability is a positive in certain aspects of life, including my role as a reader. I tend to find redeeming features in even books I struggle at times to read, whether it’s a supporting character I love, a little mystery I’m interested in until the final reveal, or great pacing.

But smoothing things over as a writer can be more difficult. I recently wrote about the advantages of using a beta reader, but another aspect of those fresh eyes is knowing when constructive criticism is going to make your work better and when it’s simply going to make your work different.

The piece I wrote about previously needed reworking, and I’m thrilled with the changes I made. Without comments from my beta reader, I wouldn’t have changed the approach of the story in the way I ended up changing it. The narrative perspective shifted, changing the dynamic of the story and the focus of the main characters.

With that said, it shifted the story into a different thematic feel. My original intention for the piece had to be reevaluated because what I ended up with, though better, is much different from what I started with and what I need for a particular project.

When notes came back on another short story, one I thought was done, my heart clenched a bit. Despite strong words of encouragement, my reader wanted to see some major reworks in the narrative timeline. I started jotting notes on my most recently printed copy, ready to smooth more feathers and polish into something a little different from I intended.

But a few words from another trusted reader made me put down my pen and re-read my own words. As I read, I felt the emotional pull of the story, the pacing I deliberately created when I originally worked and reworked and painstakingly revised the story the first time.

Though it’s necessary to be able to kill your darlings, to mangle them for the sake of improvement, necessary to put aside your ego and emotional investment in a story to make it better, it can also be crucial to stand up for them. Not every story will rest in the heart of every reader, and there will be times when making edits won’t make your work better, they will only make it different. And as a writer, you will have to decide how different you’re willing to make your words.

Writing to make every single reader happy will never happen, and sometimes when a writer thinks a piece is done, its done.

How do you know when a piece is finished? (Or finished enough?)

4 Responses to Done, Not Done and Taking a Leap
  1. jeanelaine
    November 26, 2012 | 11:51 am

    Great post. I too struggle with this very thing. More times than not my writing benefits from a good critique however there are occasions when having made the changes suggested I only succeed in mangling the piece.

  2. Brianna
    November 26, 2012 | 11:59 am

    This is definitely something I have a hard time with. I think things are done way before they actually are. This is not to say I throw things together. I definitely work hard on my pieces, but I hit a wall after a while. I experienced this with traditionally publishing my novel. After round ten of edits and rewrites, I felt the changes were becoming nitpicky and were more to please the publisher than to actually help the story along.

  3. cait
    November 26, 2012 | 12:56 pm

    I’m *finished* my first novel, but I keep asking myself this question! When is done, done?!! It has been rewritten and edited and rewritten again for the past 3 years, and I finally feel like I’ve nothing more to add. Or take. ;) But I’m still struggling to convince myself of the fact that It. Is. Done.

  4. Tina L Hook
    November 27, 2012 | 2:12 pm

    The best advice I’ve read, is once you are down to agonizing over commas and hyphens it is time to move on.