When Is A Manuscript Finished?

Empty Refrigerator asks:
When do you know you're DONE, really DONE, with revising a novel? Sometimes I feel like I revise to death.
You don’t.

If you’ve had some beta readers/critique partners/a freelance editor to look it over until you can’t possibly do anything else to it, put it away for a few months. Then revise again.

After that, you’ll just have to pick a time to say, ‘Nope, there’s nothing else I can do to make this better’ and let it go.

Even authors with published books sometimes say that they’d go back and change things in their novels. They’ve changed/grown/learned over time and that novel might not reflect their style anymore.

But that’s okay. Think of it as a time capsule. It’s great to see how far you’ve come over time.


  1. It really does feel like you could go on forever if you keep showing to others. Everyone has an opinion. After a few readers and revisions, I think it's usually time.

  2. I'm always wondering this. Where does it end? Knowing me I'll always want to tweak it. I'll have to follow your "pick a time" idea. :)

  3. My criteria for when a manuscript is done is when I'm sick and tired and can't stand being around it anymore. I wrote a 120-page novella that took three years and 20 drafts before I got to that point. Now I won't touch it unless an editor gives me specific directions on what to change.

  4. I agree, Theresa, the more people you show it to... It's a never ending cycle!

    I always want to tweak, too, Janet!

    I hope you're working on something else now, Chris! A new project can refresh you!

  5. Amen to that... I hope one day I'll get there.

    Until then I’ll keep my nose to the grind stone.

  6. Yeah, at some point it becomes what I call the Walt Whitman approach to editing. You can still be revising when you die if you want. The thing is to let it go at some point.

  7. In these days of the Internet it's relatively easy to change our web content, but going back to change a book is much more difficult.

    Plenty of personal and other scrutiny is certainly a good idea, though the writer must be the one to say 'I am happy with this.'

  8. And sometimes that fervent desire to continue editing goes on once it's in my grubby possession, and I have to pull it out of their shaking, sweaty hands and say, "darling, let go - we're ready to go to press."

  9. Hi there, I clicked over from L'Aussie's blog and wanted to say HI! I'm still in first draft on my novel and even in draft I'm revising. :D

    that rebel with a blog

  10. Keep going, Jeff! You'll get there!

    That's actually a pretty apt name for it, Kyle!

    Moroccan, it is up to the writer, yes, but sometimes he needs a little nudge, you know?

    Lynn, I bet you see a lot of that, eh? I wonder if it happens more for first time authors or if the author continues to do so with subsequent novels.

    Hi Olivia!



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