How do you know when your book is done? (Asking for a friend.)
No, really. How do you know?
Okay, I admit it. I'm asking myself this very question right now, and, as the late great Georgette Heyer would have said, I'm dicked in the nob if I can figure out the answer on my own. (Note: If you haven't ever read a Georgette Heyer book, WHY?? Get her on your TBR!!)
As all two of you who follow me on Twitter are well aware, I've been plugging away at a YA fantasy for some time and have been expressing my drafting woes via brooding Poldark gifs. For example:
Oh my, nothing beats Poldark gifs for expressing despair.
This has been such a different experience from writing my first book. (Or my second. Or my third. Or my fourth.) In all of those instances, I was operating on Megan Time. And while Megan, a full-time working mom, may not have had a whole lot of time on her hands as a general rule, there was no exterior pressure pushing me to wrap things up by a certain point.
Now? The clock's a-ticking. My first book comes out this June, which is awesome, but if I want to have a writing career, I need to get another book into the world, pdq. I don't have five years to putter away on the new novel. It needs to be done. Like, yesterday.
But the book I have now doesn't feel done. It feels messy and disjointed and poorly penned (probably because it is messy and disjointed and poorly penned). And yet, I'm so sick of looking at these words at this point I can hardly see straight.
And that's normal. That's always been a part of the process, or, at least, my process. In the past, I would have taken this opportunity to step away from the manuscript and let it breathe until I was ready to dive back in. Well, that's a luxury I don't have anymore, and it's forcing me to consume more cookies than I care to acknowledge. Like this cookie. I shall now consume my anxiety as my cat looks on in judgement.
So, to get at the heart of the matter, if you're someone with ludicrously exacting standards for yourself (hypothetically speaking, of course), how can you ever know when a manuscript or any artistic endeavor can truly be described as "done"? Is it ever finished, really? Can't it always be better? And how much of this sense of not-done-ness comes from the inability to recognize that something you've created is not only good enough, but might even be described as "pretty damn good" by a kinder outside observer?
I think it all comes down to something my husband tells me from time to time: You have to love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art. Don't tell him I said this, but he's right. All that anxiety I or any artist feels really comes down to a certain level of narcissism, the whole what-will-people-think-of-me? thing. The truth is that people don't really think of me at all. They've got more important things to consider: themselves, their families, their friends, the things that are important in life.
The truth is that I've done my best, and that's all I can do. I love this book, but if it fails, I'll write another one. And another. And another.
So, is this book done? Is it as finished as I can get it on my own? Is it good enough?
Guess I'm about to find out.