In some ways writing a story is similar to cooking. Mix the right ingredients in the correct amounts to get the flavor and texture you’re looking for, test it, add a bit more of this or a pinch of that until the desired consistency, smell, and taste measure up to expectations. Sometimes, as with any concoction, the whole thing ends up in the nearest garbage can, but that’s a blog for another day.
In this entry, I’m focusing on when a project is done. Tricky question, right? It is for me. Sure, I know when to write “The End.” But unlike when I put together my favorite recipes, I don’t always have a clear sense of when to stop seasoning, stirring, tasting and revising. In fact, as a general rule, if I didn’t have a deadline or another story idea nagging at me, I’d probably keep working on a novel. Maybe forever. I’d probably still be revising that story I wrote in second grade. An inspired piece titled The Sloppy Man. Yes, it’s hard for me to leave my writing alone. This is one reason why an agent is good for me. Once I hand the story over to him, I can’t touch it. He knows me. He won’t let me near it. And I’m grateful for that.
So, when is a story done? When is it time to stop fussing with it? I read an interview a while back in which a writer was asked how he knows when one of his novels is finished. He replied that, for him, the project is complete when he can’t stand looking at it anymore. Okay, this I get. This is the nugget of wisdom that energizes me to hit send or to fire up ye ol’ printer and then slide my manuscript into an envelope.
Now, excuse me while I sprint out to our mailbox. I need to snatch my manuscript out of the hands of our mailman. I just thought of something else that I MUST change in my latest novel.