How many does it take me? I never remember to count. Instead, I just enjoy the tootsie pop until I get to the gooey “chocolate” goodness in the center, and then I happily devour that, too.
How many edits does it take to get to the end of our manuscripts?
I cannot give you an answer. I just try to enjoy the process—work through the outer shell and to the soft nougaty center, and then I devour that, throw away the stick and wrapper and wish for another one. Every Tootsie Pop I eat takes different licks to get to that center. If I try to bite through too soon, it’s painful to the teefies and the center and hard candy are all mixed up and a mess (still tastes good, but dang I should have waited)—when I am at just the right place, I can crunch through to the center quite easily—sometimes I even make it to the center with barely any hard outer shell left clinging! Wowee!
Only you can know when your manuscript is “done” (or if you want to trust someone else- a critique partner(s) or editor, then that’s fine too) – some say our manuscripts are never done, that we could work away until the cows come a-bawling, and this is true—our manuscripts being energetic and dynamic and all, but there has to be a point where you at last stop and say, “I’ve truly done all I can, it’s time to move on . . . ” That point where you have worked and worked—and I’m not talking about the point where you are just bored with it, or run out of steam—
—because sometimes we think our manuscript is “done” before it really is; we are in a hurry to get on with it. We want to move on, we want to get that particular book published so we can work on something else—we’re sick of grape and ready for cherry. Maybe we don’t even want a Pop, maybe we want a damn Snickers or Zero, huhn. We’re frustrated and sick of the whole thing and ready to Move Move Move on. Well, maybe it is time to move on and come back to the manuscript later. Or, some writers have found publishers/agents with a manuscript that still needs a lot of work—there are always exceptions, always. I could buy a successful football franchise if I had a dollar for every exception there is in this business, every rule that has been broken, every “Ha! I didn’t listen to you/he/she/them/they and look what I accomplished anyway! Nya Nya Nya!”
Once you find a publisher, the end of edits comes with your last galley proof. This is when your publisher/editor says, “Here it is, the last chance to find anything.” CA-RUNCH! There is a definite END to this process, even though our manuscripts are living and breathing and hold within them the ability to grow and change and morph forever and ever amen—it can’t be this way with deadlines. It must end at some particular point or you don’t make your deadline — very very bad for you.
But with no deadlines, you stop when you feel your manuscript is a complete beautiful creation. You say, “I’m done . . . it’s dang near perfect. I’ve looked for sneakity sneakers; I’ve searched for dangling participles, and tic words, and simile over-use, and repeaters, and voice (more about Voice later), and POV, and consistency, etc etc etc …” I’ve done the best I can. I am ready. My manuscript is ready. Then you send it out and you hope. And, when accepted, you wait for the publisher/editor to give you their thoughts—but that’s a whole other process. With Tender Graces, I had no deadline. I worked on it, I fiddled, I this’d and that’d, and finally I searched for a publisher when I considered my work a beautiful creation. With Secret Graces, I have a deadline, so my DONE comes at the deadline’s date…period.
So, when do you know you are done? Do you have a meter to measure completion of your manuscripts when there is no deadline?