“The point of good writing is knowing when to stop.” ~ Lucy Montgomery
As I mentioned in a recent post, I am working on the final edits for my next novel, PFC Liberty Stryker. Like every writer at this stage, I ask myself, “How do I know when to stop?”
Many writers believe it’s hard to know when to stop editing. Let’s face it we spend a hell of a lot of time revising our work. John Irving said, “Half my life is an act of revision.” If you’re like me, even after a book is published you see where you could have added a word or two, here and there. Oscar Wilde said, “Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.” How depressing. I prefer to finish mine, thank you very much. Whether we abandon our books or finish them, at some point we do have to let go.
I have compiled a check list gleaned from years of editing my own and other writers’ works, and listening to what writers and editors say about revision. At each stage in the re-writing process I use the guidelines below to improve my story. This is my map to the finish line.
- Can you summarize the story in a sentence or two?
- Details: spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, italics, formatting
- Is your main character an interesting person?
- Does she/he have flaws?
- Does your main character change throughout the story?
- Is every character necessary to this story?
- Have you chosen the best point of view?
- Does the beginning draw the reader in?
- Is there tension in this story?
- Does each chapter provide information that moves the story forward?
- Does every scene?
- Does your dialogue move the story forward, as in no idle conversations?
- Does everyone sound alike? Can readers tell who’s talking without dialogue tags?
- Is there unresolved conflict until the end?
- Does the story end where it’s supposed to?
- Do you like this story?