How many drafts should a novel have

How to know when your novel is done

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a book called Big Magic and it was a life changing read for me. I don’t typically re-read books, but with this one, I go back to it whenever I need a reminder to keep going with my writing. I previously shared other books that made me a better writer because I highly recommend devouring craft books if you want to be an author. One of my favourite quotes from Big Magic explains how to know when your novel is done. 

How to know when your novel is done

I write in my 9-5 gig as an executive ghostwriter in the corporate space. What does that mean, exactly? Well, I craft email communications, speeches, thought leadership and other written content in the voice of other people (in this case, senior leaders).

My day job makes me a better writer because I’m so successful at getting into other people’s heads that my writing receives little to no editing from the executives I write for. This has been the case from the Regional Vice President level all the way up to Chief Executive Officers and other c-suite leaders.

How does this translate into writing books like Sweet Redemption? Well, my characters become real people to me and I get into their heads and find their distinct voices. I write first person present tense and alternate between the male and female perspective, which works well for my particular writing style.

The problem in both my day job and side gig is ever “being done.” No piece of writing is ever truly done because there are always edits and refinements you can make. Give me a communication I wrote years ago and I could rewrite it from a completely new lens because I’ve learned and experienced more since I originally crafted it.

How to know when your novel is done

However, eventually you have to let your work go and put it out in the world so you can create new art (or, in the case of my 9-5, because I have a new impending deadline). Done is better than good and while I’m not advocating putting out a novel that hasn’t been professionally edited, I am advocating putting out your best work and moving on.

So, how to know when your novel is done? Go through your creative process and do your due diligence. This could be self-editing, beta reading, critique partners, or professional editing, but eventually you have to accept you’ve done all you can and let go.

Sweet Redemption is being published in May/June and I am both excited and terrified! However, there was also an almost immediate sense of relief that I completed this book and could officially focus my attention on getting other projects live.

How do you know when you’re “done” a creative project?   

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6 thoughts on “How to know when your novel is done

  1. This is exactly what I’ve currently struggling with my 2012 WIP. It’s so hard to end something that you’ve put in SO MUCH WORK. But, February will be the month that I end the story, and move on!

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