One of the hardest things for new authors to know is when their book is finished. You might think that when you write those lovely words, “The End”, that would be the end of the book, but experienced writers know that, in fact, for many, that’s just the mid-point in the writing process.

Once the actual writing of the story is done, once you have words on the page, that’s when many writers actually begin to craft their novel. They take that very rough first draft (otherwise know as the POS—pile of shit) and craft it into a coherent, well-written, well-crafted story. They take their two-dimensional characters and broaden them, adding depth and layers.

Rare is the author who actually writes one draft of a book and calls it done.

No, instead, we work on it. We rewrite sentences, making sure we are using precisely the right words. We read the book out loud for flow and cadence. We make sure our characters stay true to themselves and speak in a way that is unique. We work on our scenes to be sure there is conflict in just about every scene. That each and every scene has a purpose or three (there should certainly be at least two purposes to every scene—the author’s purpose (character development, world building, moving the story forward, whatever) and the point-of-view character’s purpose (find out information to help solve the mystery, get to know the love-interest better, etc.)). We make sure that in every scene, the protagonist is either moving toward or away from their goal.

We do all of these things, and we mostly do them after we finish writing the book. We call it editing, but honestly, it is so much more than that. It’s really just a part of the writing process.

The problem for beginning authors, though, is when enough is enough? As authors, we can continue to tinker with our stories for months, even years. So, how do you know when your book is done?

Well, of course, you might read through the entire thing, get to the end and close your manuscript with a satisfied smile knowing that it is a great example of your excellent writing skills, the story has been told in a compelling way, and came to a brilliant conclusion. …and if you know of an author who can do this, I’ve got a fantastic bridge I could sell you—cheap!

You might also get so tired of the damned thing that you’re ready to throw it out the window and if you have to read through it one more time, you might just set it on fire as you do so. That would be an excellent time to simply declare the book finished.

Or you could give it to a book coach or a professional editor and ask them to read it and give you notes. Once those notes are taken care of and the coach/editor is satisfied that they are done to the best of your abilities, you both agree to call the book finished.

The trick is, no matter how you do it, at some point, within a reasonable amount of time once you have finished actually writing the entire book, you do need to say that the book is finished and send it out to others to read. Whether those others are a coach, editor, or just a writer friend who has graciously offered to read your book for you, doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you get one or two more people to read the book and then move on.

Don’t worry, there is plenty more work to do to prepare it for publication. You won’t be quite rid of it yet. And even then, when you are completely finished and the book is published, you’ve got that next book to write! 😊