Just finished writing a thing. Hopefully. I’ve sent it off, now it’s for someone else to decide precisely how finished it is.
Getting to the end of the project is quite strange. Conflicting feelings. First, there’s the desperate lunge for the finish-line tape, exhausted, scrabbling, rushing to complete the job in a last-ditch spurt of excitement. It’s done, the word count has been reached, it hasn’t been exceeded, you’ve typed End, bolded and underlined it, and now all that’s left is the polish.
And then there’s the second stage, which is where you can’t quite bear to let it go. People more sentimental than me would say it’s because they don’t want to stop spending time with their characters. In my case, it’s more that I can’t help fiddling with a piece of work, editing it, tweaking it, worrying about it and trying to find ways of making it less awful. Going through the text one more time, but concentrating on a different aspect; character this time, dialogue the next, suspense this time, humour the next.
The idea is to make the work better, but sometimes it ends up making it worse. You want a few rough edges left in, a bit of spontaneity, even clumsiness, just to vary the tone. And it’s possible to over-write; to clever-clever things up to the point that the point becomes lost; to add so many frills that the pattern is obscured.
That’s when to stop writing. When I’ve gone through a thing so many times I know every line, where the only changes I’m making are to the punctuation and formatting. Where I’ve repeatedly loosened and re-tightened the dialogue so many times there’s nothing left to change.
Doesn’t mean it’s finished, though. It just means it’s time to get a second opinion.