Saturday, October 10, 2009

When Is It Time To STOP?

I have a friend who has been working on an historical novel for almost six years. Her research took more than a year and then she began writing. During the last five years, she has attended conferences and been awarded a place in numerous competitive writing residencies all over the country. Each experience has given her an editor's or mentor's opinion about her book - sometimes an opinion based on one chapter, a few chapters and a synopsis, or a larger chunk of the manuscript.

What advice has she received?

Conflicting advice. Some said delete the flashbacks. Others liked them. Some said she needed a first person POV. Some said she needed an omniscient POV. She's heard that her structure of chapters that move from one character's POV to another detracts from the narrative tension. She's heard that her changes in POV are compelling. Some wanted more history. Some wanted less history.

So when is it time to stop collecting conflicting advice and start the submission process with an agent or editor? How do you know when enough is enough?


  1. When it conflicts with your vision. The minute you try and write for other people you've stepped onto the thorny path. You can't please everyone else, but you can please yourself. (That sounds But it's true)

  2. I think as long as you're getting advice suggesting the SAME change(s) from more than one trusted critiquer, you might want to consider taking their advice. But when you're only getting conflicting advice, then I'd say it's done and time to submit.

  3. I am the queen of ambiguous comments. Yes, as MG Higgins says, if you get matching feedback, then use that common thread. But don't let the various input drive you mad.

  4. I agree wtih Aimee. There is a time to change your ms...and there is a time to STOP changing it.

    Revise it as long as it is making the story stronger and moving it toward the story it is supposed to be. But don't overanalyze and try to please every critic, critique buddy or workshop reviewer.

    At some point, you just have to believe it is READY and send that baby out! NO ms is perfect. And an editor is going to have suggestions for change that might be completely different than anything you've heard before. your best.
    Send it out.
    And pray. :)


  5. Great comments, everyone! Yes, there comes a time when conflicting advice does you no good and it's time to send your work out. You must trust yourself. But sometimes it's hard to let go.

  6. Gale, that's such a great question. I think it's important for writers to listen carefully to critiques, but ultimately, the work belongs to the writer. It's tough to have confidence in your work when others have different opinions, but ultimately, it's what you need. This doesn't change one a manuscript is published. Some readers hate wildly popular best -sellers!

  7. Excellent question. I wrote a post once that said, when you can drop it in the mail and walk away with a huge smile on your face, then it is ready!

  8. Corey, I think that is the best definition of ready I've ever heard!

  9. Not sure what to add to what has already been said . . .
    I agree with Amiee, you have to please yourself - that's not to say that you don't listen to critiques, but bottom line is, it's YOUR story. If suggested changes ring true to you, then make them. Otherwise forget them and stick that sucker in the mail!

  10. This is a really great question. I heard from an editor that you stop when you are changing things that don't make much difference to the story. You are on the minor things that become more of a personal taste rather than major structural issues or character devlopment.