Monday, June 22, 2009

No, really, NOW it's good

I was thinking this weekend about that perennial question authors ask themselves, and each other:

How do you know when the book is done? When is it ready to send off into the world?

My answer, for myself, has always been when it's as good as I can make it. The funny thing is, I didn't realize that was a moving target.

I wrote a book. I thought it was as good as I could possibly make it. My agent loved it and agreed to represent it. Wahoo! Done, right?


It didn't quite sell, but we had consistent feedback. On reading the feedback, I realized the book COULD be better. I could go farther, deeper, if I let myself. I didn't know what I was thinking before, that it was as good as I could do. It wasn't. I just *thought* it was. So I revised it.

I thought I was done. NOW it's perfect, right?


Then a brilliant person suggested a completely different bent to the book. ("What would it be like if THIS happened instead?")

Ohhhhhhhh. Yessssss.

I now am just starting to realize that when I have that "oh" moment, there's yet another level to go. The book was good, maybe. It could still be better. And every time, I realize that where I thought I let go before, that I really gave it all I had, there's MORE.

Some people don't understand how I can keep making revisions when I was happy with the book to begin with. "If it was right before," they ask, "why do you keep messing with it?"

Because maybe it was right before for me a year ago, or 6 months ago. I keep growing and changing as a person, keep inhaling other books and thoughts and (hopefully) wisdom. So when someone I trust says "not quite right" I damn well WILL go at it again. And again. And again.

Is it perfect this time? No. I'm sure with the right eye I could make it EVEN better. But this time, really and truly, it's the best I can do.


Precie said...

Well, I hope THIS ONE is the one editors BUY. :)

Karen Mahoney said...

What Precie said. ;)

Great post, Susan!


Gary Corby said...

I can so relate to I-thought-it-was-finished-but-turns-out-it-wasn't.

Good luck, Susan. I truly admire your perseverance. What you know for sure is, it's going to be an extra special book because of all the work.

pseudosu said...

Oh wow do I relate! I'm certain I could keep revising the same novels over and over, with each incarnation improving. Over time they would probably fail to resemble the original in any way.

I've promised myself one more crack at the current wip, then that's IT for that one. The one that's being queried now? -- I bet in a year I'll think I can do better, even though right now it's the best I can do. Hopefully by then I'll be on to a whole new project.

Susan Adrian said...

Precie and Karen: *fingers crossed*

Gary: Thanks! I think I've realized that it isn't done until it's on the shelves. :)

Sue: At some point you DO have to stop. Here's to just one more and getting it right!

Anonymous said...

Um, I almost missed this blog due to the fact that I was chasing a moving target. Heh.

Well EVENTUALLY books make it into print. And I hear authors say even THEN that "it could've been better" so I'll cross my fingers (harder) that you end up ~whispering~ that SOON...on your shiny new release day. **\o/**

Anonymous said...

I don't think that came out QUITE the way I intended. *facepalm* It's 6:15am (pre-coffee). UM...may you NOT whisper that EVER again someday...except about the books on the shelf next to YOURS. :D

Janet Reid said...

You are drenched in awesome.

Susan Adrian said...

Emily: LOLOL. Thanks for the laugh, there, darlin'. :)

Janet: SO mutual!

courtney said...

Evolution, bb.

And ditto what Janet said. :)

Ara Burklund said...

So true!!! Great post, Susan. : )