Put on your author hat and help me out here, would you?
Your agent has submitted your story. Rejection letters accumulate even as contest judges continue to give that baby accolades and at least one win. (You want to hug those judges–or at least send them some Godiva truffles.) You rewrite for the zillionth time. One more tweak, or two or ten. Surely, another rewrite will do the trick.
And then–glory, hallelujah–the phone rings. It’s your agent. Your knees begin to buckle. Three editors have shown interest, but here’s one offering a contract. You sign on the dotted line and wander the house, beaming, because finally, finally . . . FINALLY . . . you know you’ll have a book in hand. Your book. In your hand. (And, you pray, in many others’ hands, though that bit seems even harder to imagine than finally achieving a contract.)
The editor at the publishing house has yet to send you his or her suggestions. Meanwhile, you’ve still got a day job editing for others and three manuscripts in various stages of readiness. You plod along, tweaking, editing, rewriting, editing, reading, reading, and then you wake up one morning, quaking because once that final edit goes out on that contracted book, you won’t be able to tweak it again. Your name will be irrevocably tied to that bound copy or that downloaded ebook.
How do you finally decide that good enough is actually good enough? How do you finally say, “Okay, I will lay down that piece and move on to the next?” Is it when your contract deadline nears? When you’ve got to have the work back in the publisher’s hands–or someone’s going to be in trouble?
Because, I don’t know about you, but I’m always rewriting. I love to rewrite. And each of my stories has improved with age. So, where do I quit?
If you’ve held your book in your hands, are you satisfied? Do you wish you could have a do-over on any part of it? Or do you worry that one of your story layers will topple? Do you ever worry that one of those stones–a relationship or a conflict or a theme, or even merely a moment or scene–might have worked better if nestled with just a bit more care?
I’d really like to know.