humor / writers tips

10+ Tips on How to Know Your Story is Done

writing tipsEvery month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (known by we-members as #IWSG) bring the most insecure among us together to discuss (in pithy concise posts) what bothers us, what helps/hurts our writing, and what we would suggest to others who would like to write. Last year, one of the optional questions was When do you know you’re done? I had no idea but was inspired by efriend Erika Beebe’s great answer to dig around on Twitter for more of what people said. I found ten tips that really made sense to me. See if you agree:

  1. Does the thought of one more edit make you want to throw up?
  2. Are your fixes now changing earlier edits rather than making new ones? Notwithstanding Oscar Wilde’s confession (often attributed to Mark Twain):

I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.

3. Did you finish all the lists you created for editing, the ones that exhort you to search out was, saw, look, n’t, -ly, and there they’re their ilk?

4, Does your gut say you’re done, as in this anonymous quote:

“Her heart finally told her to stop wasting her time.”

5. Anne Lamott, says that trying to get a book ready is like:

“…putting an octopus to bed.”

Is your octopus asleep?

6. Did you cram in the correct word count–not too many for your genre?

7. Did you fix that spot where you wrote yourself into a corner and couldn’t escape, like a defective Roomba?

8. Have you gotten rid of the first paragraph? (that bit where she wakes up, or he thoughtfully pets his dog. You finally figured out you didn’t really need that bit, didn’t you.)

9. Did you have beta readers–or a critique group–review it? I know–uncomfortable, but agents like to know that’s done.

10 Did you write ‘the end’?

11. Did you just press send too soon?

Me, I’m working through these tips as I edit Book 2 of my Crossroads trilogy, The Quest for Home. My goal is (still) Fall 2019. We’ll see…

If you’re curious about IWSG, check out my IWSG posts in response to their questions. Here are a few fan favorites:

Does Your Writing Surprise You?

Personal Traits in My Characters

Am I creative?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, The Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

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73 thoughts on “10+ Tips on How to Know Your Story is Done

  1. Pingback: Friday Finds #writetips #humor #qotd – Staci Troilo

  2. These are great. It can be hard to know when we are done. I know I can get held up with edits- but there is definitely a time to say we are done. 🙂 The comma quote hits home. Been there- done that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Jackie – love the thought of tidying up the octopus and putting it to bed … and all your other analogies for finishing off your edits/book … I guess another option would be to push the ‘undo’ tab – except you’d not get so far back! Good luck and breathe … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good post, Jacqui! It is hard to know when to quit editing it. I give myself a deadline to get it into the editor and work furiously up to that point. Its stressful though and I may try a more relaxed approach next time and go until I just can’t look at it anymore;)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t have much experience with this. I worked on my first book for 10 years and put it in the drawer for now. I’m about 1/3 through my second. But I’ll remember this once I finish it and go through the process of revising it. I can fall into the trap of revising forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My daughter, a potter, once said to me, “Things don’t always have to be perfect, but things have to get done.” This is true in writing as well. Eventually, you have to put The End, and move on. Easier said than done of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. These are great questions, Jacqui, and I love that quote of Anne Lamott’s about putting an octopus to bed.
    I’m looking forward to reading The Quest for Home as I thoroughly enjoyed, and would recommend to others, Survival of the Fittest. Keep at it!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A useful list. The Oscar Wilde/Mark Twain quote is very similar to one I’ve heard attributed to Hemingway – which went something like, I put a word in, then I took it out, then I put it back in again… I’ll have to try and remember this one to go with it.

    Liked by 1 person

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