Knowing When to Stop

You know, for a writer I don’t do a lot of new-words-on-the-page actual writing. Most of my time goes into coming up with stories, outlining, researching, and planning. Then a few weeks to get the first draft done, and then months and months of editing. 

After the first draft, it’s a matter of rewriting. I don’t know who said it first, but I’ve said it a million times since: Novels are not written so much as they are rewritten.

Michael Mewshaw

And the thing about outlining, researching, and editing is that these tasks are circular. The process goes something like this:

10 Jot down notes
20 Look things up
30 Improve story
40 Improvement triggers new ideas and/or uncovers new problems
50 Go to 10
60 Move on to next stage

This is the infinite loop of creativity, and needs an escape. How about this:

10 Jot down notes
20 Look things up
30 Improve story
40 Improvement triggers new ideas and/or uncovers new problems
41 If idea/problem not that serious, go to 60
50 Go to 10
60 Move on to next stage

The problem with this is defining “serious”. So, instead of aiming for an acceptable standard, I go for an acceptable deadline.

05 Deadline = Enough days
10 Jot down notes
20 Look things up
30 Improve story
40 Improvement triggers new ideas and/or uncovers new problems
41 Days passed = Days
42 Deadline = Deadline - Days
43 If Deadline <= Limit, go to 60
50 Go to 10
60 Move on to next stage

Now, this doesn’t always work either, but a combination of these two processes, with a few soft resets along the way, worked to get Earther 27 out of editing limbo. Is the story perfect? No. I can see problems with it, and I’m sure you can too. I could spend the rest of my life on Earther 27, and it still wouldn’t be perfect. 

No, it isn’t perfect, but it is done. And, by this time next year, book two will be done as well. 

Deadline = 12 months, and counting.

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