Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Be Careful Over-working Your Story. You Will Never Finish

We've all heard authors say this time and time again.
"Yeah, my story is finished but before I send it out, I want to tweak it a bit more."

Argh! This is sometimes the most frustrating thing I have heard authors say. At some point, you have to put your story to bed and move on to a new project, or move that story to a new point in its life. In other words, it is time to send it on.

In all honesty, I think a lot of authors use this comment as a way of saying they aren't personally ready to move on with their writing. The story becomes the "fall-guy." To me, I really don't have a problem with that. The writer isn't ready to send it out to other people, so start on a new project. Quit tweaking the current project.

The problem with this constant tweaking is that the story will become something that you likely didn't want it to be. In some cases, you will do things to the story that will actually make it worse. For authors that do this, the odds are they are listening to other authors talk about their stories, sitting in conference workshops, or reading on the loops about a "really cool technique." Their brains think briefly to something in their stories and they go to work fixing.

We have to remember that every story is different. What worked in another story may not work in yours. You have a completely different context and things don't always translate well from one story to the next.

The message here is simple.

If you are finished with your story then keep it as such. If you aren't ready to send it out, go on to something new. It may sit there for a while, but at least you won't damage it.



  1. This is great advice. With my current wip that I'm finishing, I'm going to revise but not edit out my voice and original vision. It's hard not to though!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement to let it go and leave it alone!

  3. Thank you for your great insight. I think tonight I'll print instead of paranoid proofreading. With me, it's not about not being ready to move on. I enjoy writing, and I do love my stories and am eager to get them out there. Then, I can move on to the next series before the world in my head grows too large.

  4. I'm confused, but since no one else seems to be, it must be that I missed something. Yesterdays post cautioned to not get in a hurry and make sure it's your best. Today is, don't stroke it to death.
    When you're new, it's hard to know when it's your best. I hope what I write five years from now is much better than what I'm doing today. But, I hate to wait five years to start submitting.

  5. Mary,

    I had a feeling a few people would think this. Here is the answer. If your story is done, and you feel it is pretty dang good then stick with it. Don't keep changing it every time someone gives you something new to consider. As far as the rushing, you don't have to send out a story as soon as it is done. Do your research and make sure you know the business and everything first.

  6. It's reassuring to hear these words spoken by someone else. I 'finished' my first novel recently. I use the word 'finished' in the loose sense because I have come to the conclusion, that I will never truly finish, I could continue to tweak for ever! I suppose what I'm wondering is, does it get any easier, with the second and the third?

  7. I agree with Bevv. You can tweek forever, but there comes a point when you feel it's good enough. I came to that point in mine. I felt it was good enough, changing the story anymore would be a disaster. (Now I have a friend being grammar police on it because I just can not space myself from my story to see grammar and punctuation and all that stuff.)