How many licks does it take to say "DONE!" Manuscript Editing, continued

9 Sep

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop? Well, the owl said, “a-one, a-two, tha-ree,” CRUNCH! “Three licks to get to the center of the tootsie roll tootsie pop.”

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?

I’ll be back with more cleaning up our manuscripts later . . . Namaste!

12 Responses to “How many licks does it take to say "DONE!" Manuscript Editing, continued”

  1. Lazy Writer September 9, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    I don't have a clue. I'm hoping I'll just feel it. We'll see.

  2. Analisa September 9, 2009 at 11:10 am #

    Finding that finish. Ummm, sometimes when doing short stories I feel like I am done when I have said what I wanted. That the story has the texture I want. When I close my eyes I can see the characters in my imagination, their homes, loved ones. I think then I am finished. I pass it on to my small circle of readers. Then I see it from their eyes. Clarify it so they can, I hope, see what I see or something better. Since I haven't been published I don't have a deadline. Except when I have a submission date I am trying to beat. Which I must admit gives me a rush of creativity. With the novel, I have no idea. I have a beginning, and end. But the middle, which makes the best part to me is what takes that slow thinking and picking and rewriting and rethinking. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Love the tootsie roll thing. I so remember those commercials. :)

  3. J. Kaye September 9, 2009 at 11:12 am #

    ROTFL @ the photos to highlight this post. I need to go back and read your other one. Really awesome post!

  4. Sheila Deeth September 9, 2009 at 11:12 am #

    Would you believe I've never had a tootsie roll pop? (I grew up in England.)But the editing… It seems like each time I edit it looks okay by the end. Then I put it away. The following year – fall; it's that time of year again – I get out each of my manuscripts and reread and re-edit. I keep dreaming that one day I won't want to re-edit, but I'm dreaming more that one day it'll go off to a publisher and be out of my hands.

  5. Deb Shucka September 9, 2009 at 11:29 am #

    Done is so hard to define for sure. One of my measures is when I start adding things only to discover they're already there in another form. Adding and deleting commas is another sign that it might be time to let go.I haven't had the pleasure of working under a deadline – yet.

  6. Sharla September 9, 2009 at 12:52 pm #

    For my first novel, "done" was when my husband said "If you make me read another revision, I'm gonna hurt you in your sleep."He's read it a few times.

  7. Terri Tiffany September 9, 2009 at 3:37 pm #

    If I leave it be for a few weeks and then go back to it, read it and say, "Dang–you write pretty good!" then I know it's done.

  8. Strange Fiction September 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    I haven't reached the 'done' stage yet. I've distanced myself from my first by starting a second. I'm looking forward to revising the first now. There are parts of my ms that I get drawn into while I'm reading–when I can get lost in the story from beginning to end–then perhaps I'll feel I'm 'done'. Gee, what I'd give for a chocolate flavoured tootsie pop right about now…

  9. Janna Qualman September 9, 2009 at 9:07 pm #

    Love the analogy! And the "b@stard owl" cartoon is a hoot. (Er, pun intended, I suppose…)

  10. Jessica September 10, 2009 at 4:40 am #

    Erk. I don't know when I'm done so I have to stop myself. I'm hating my manuscript right now and like you said, I just want to switch flavors. I can't tell whether it's good enough to be published, but I think I'll try anyways while I write a different story. LOLHave fun with that deadline!

  11. Debbie September 10, 2009 at 7:10 am #

    I get so excited just thinking you are close to giving us another book!

  12. 2girlsonabench January 18, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    We thought we were done with our screenplay so many times, we celebrated each time with dancing in the driveway and wine. Then after we sobered up, we re-read it and went back to the bench to re-write. Doing that now, more wine may be needed.

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