Revising Leah

October 24, 2008

How to Walk Away

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 4:06 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’ve mentioned on occasion how there are dangers and difficulties associated with revising a story as thoroughly as I am with this project. One difficulty is that each time I read a chapter, it can be a very different experience.

For example, a couple days ago, I was reading chapter seven. I didn’t expect it to give me any trouble, but as I read it, a number of sentences didn’t seem quite right; I wasn’t feeling the sense of flow that I thought I should. I didn’t make any drastic changes, but I did revise several sentences. The next day, I read the same chapter again, and that second time I didn’t see any of the problems that concerned me the day before. I was reading virtually the same text, but having two very different experiences.

Today, I read chapters three and four, and I was quite pleased with both of them. If I read them again tomorrow, however, who knows what my impression of those chapters will be?

I’ve said before that a text can never really be truly “finished,” and my experience with chapter seven just highlights this basic truth of writing. The dilemma for me, then, is when do I stop? I could spend another year — another dozen years — revising this novel, and it will never be “finished”. When it comes to my own writing, I’m a perfectionist: anything less than perfection in my own writing is an indication of failure and an occasion of shame. But I think I’m getting very close to the point where I’ll be able to lay down my pen (or close the .doc file) and walk away from it, satisfied that I’ve done the best that I can do.

How do you know when a story or a piece of writing is finished?



  1. I think its really hard to draw that line as well – when you decide it’s finished one day, the chances are if you look closely enough at it a week, a month, a year later there will always be something there you feel could be done better.
    I work on a piece until I feel like it is as ‘done’ as it’s going to get for that point in time. When the feedback I’ve been given is good and the bits that niggled and annoyed or stopped the flow of the story have been effectively fixed.
    You asked awhile ago about the similarities between pregnancy and writing a book and I was thinking about that this morning – while this baby is inside me, it’s just mine. Same as the first or second draft of a novel might be. Once it’s born (the book, or the baby) I’m sharing it with the world and it becomes a little less ‘mine’, in that way I kind of think that the ‘finished’ version of a story would reflect that the book has become more about how it’s world views it (you, your beta readers or other people who give you feedback), and that in some ways all of those views and opinions would have a stake in whether its ‘finished’. I certainly don’t think I could call something done until I’d had feedback on it. While I mostly write for myself, I also write for other people to enjoy it, so others views on it need to be taken into consideration as well.
    Sorry if I’m not making much sense! lol Very tired.

    Comment by J.C — October 24, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  2. Thanks. That’s a good point about how the readers’ reception helps to finish a story. Maybe that is the piece of the puzzle that I’m missing.

    Comment by jmreep — October 24, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

  3. No matter how many times you read you are going to want to change something. Just always look back to the goal of why am I writing this, what point am I trying to make. If it does that, then its done.

    Comment by — October 24, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

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