5 Signs Your WIP Is Done

As I am currently suffering through all of them right now, I thought I’d post this handy dandy guide for knowing when a book or story is finished. 

1 – You find yourself rewriting the same paragraph three times in half an hour.  Not to be confused with rewriting a paragraph three times in half an hour when you’ve just started.  That’s called procrastination. 

2 – You haven’t written a new scene in a month.  This is essentially the same as #1, only you haven’t been able to notice on the individual paragraph level because you’ve gone over them all so many times your brain is completely numb.  Again, if you encounter this early in the process, your problem is something else entirely.  Generally, it means you’re writing the wrong story. 

3 – You find yourself trying to pare every sentence down to its most muscular, minimalist self.  This is actually not a problem with short stories, but an essential part of the process.  It’s not a problem with deliberately literary fiction either, which is one of the reasons literary writers tend to produce novels at one-fifth the pace of their more genre-oriented cousins.  The writer, of course, must decide how and when to apply this particular rule herself. 

4 – You deliberately keep writing because you think the story really isn’t quite ready to be sent out, or even offered to your beta readers.  If you’ve told yourself this more than three times in a single day, chances are you’re suffering from submitophobia and need to just get on with it. 

5 – You’re spending more time jotting down notes for the sequel than you are writing the current story.  This can mean either that the WIP is starting to bore you, in which case you really had better wrap it up as soon as possible, or that you need to start by jumping into the action at the second book instead of the more usual second chapter. 

Any other signs out there to add to the list? 

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There are 9 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. domynoe

    The changes you do make are so minor that they actually do nothing to the sentence/paragraph/scene, etc. Word choice can be important, but there comes a point where word choice becomes a delay tactic.

  2. 2. glenda larke

    Aargh, this is exactly where I am now. I really want to send Stormlord Rising off to the publisher for copy edit, but she asked first for some minor but irritating changes that necessitate rereading the whole book. Which must be about the 100th time I have re-read and tweaked.

    The only one of your points that doesn’t apply to me is No.4. I am Dying to Submit. Not least because it means another part of my advance comes due!

  3. 3. Steve Buchheit

    When it has the same feel in my brain as a dead fish has in my hands.

    There’s also something I learned in art school, overworking a design leads to it’s destruction. So you have to learn when to let go and let it suffer from it’s defects instead of making it “perfect.”

  4. 4. S.C. Butler

    Glenda – Looks like we’re in the same place. Hope you finish soon.

    Steve – I like that – never overwork the design.

    Domynoe – Word choice as a delaying tactic – I know the feeling.

  5. 5. NewGuyDave

    My comment didn’t stick. But basically, it was…

    You know you’re done when you’re already thinking about what you can revise and the beta readers haven’t gotten back to you. Just a few more tweaks… I think this is a symptom of your #4.

  6. 6. S.C. Butler

    Dave – That’s weird. It was up there for a couple days. How did you know it disappeared?

  7. 7. NewGuyDave

    I saw it posted, then came back to see if there were more comments on this topic. There’s a slew of folks on OWW who should read this post.

    Maybe I was moderated by sfnovelists.com for being out of touch with reality or some such.

  8. 8. S.C. Butler

    Maybe I should post it on OWW. I’ll bet I could get a dozen reviews in a day because it’s so short.


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Author Information

S.C. Butler

Butler is the author of The Stoneways Trilogy from Tor Books: Reiffen's Choice, Queen Ferris, and The Magician's Daughter. Find out what Reiffen does with magic, and what magic does with him... Visit site.



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