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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » When to stop

   
Author Topic: When to stop
C@R3Y
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This is a pretty simple topic...

I always have trouble with this, and I would like to know what some of you have to say on the matter.

Okay, so when should you stop revising, editing, or looking at a story your working on?

When is it time to just put an end to it and just send the dang thing out? It always bothers me when I have a reader going over my story with me, first, second, sometimes even third drafts, and by the time I get to the third draft I have made that reader happy and he or she says I did a really good job and they thoroughly enjoy the story more so than before, at that point... and then I might find another reader to look at my new supposedly-perfected draft. He or she will have a WHOLE NEW set of issues with my story... I start over the revising process and I just feel as if my story is never good enough and there is still so much I can do with it. I find new directions to take the story, I find new problems... but really, what is too much exactly? When should you just send the thing off?

I know this topic has been touched on before, but perhaps too long ago. It's always good to revisit certain topics to refresh peoples memory... and maybe it'll even help out a person or two that is having the same problem. I know I'm not the only one that isn't sure when to say "Enough is enough." It's been too long since I've sent anything out, because I don't feel like anything I'm currently working on is really ready.

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History
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You mean we should stop? [Wink]

The only stories I've stopped revising are the one's that have been published. But I'm still new at this.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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MAP
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You shouldn't change things for other people. The purpose of getting critiques is to make sure that the story you are trying to tell is making it onto the page. You should only make the changes that you agree with. If you are trying to please every reader, you will be constantly redoing your story because every reader has different wants and expectations.

As for when to stop editing, you will never have a perfect story, so you could keep editing forever. You have to stop when you get close enough. When the changes you make don't enhance the story enough to be worth the effort.

I hate to do this, but I actually blogged about this a while back. Here is a link if you are interested.

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extrinsic
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I stop when a narrative is the best I'm able to compose it at the moment. A recent four thousand words work took me four hours to raw draft, eight hours to rewrite, another four hours to revise, before I presented it to a workshop. It was well-received though had shortcomings from accessiblity issues for the audience. I expended another four hours afterward rewriting and revising it. Better reception. Now I know the crux of the story and its voice and have a purposeful revision strategy, I'm looking at another twelve hours for final revisions.
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rcmann
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I have (finally) gotten to the point where I am starting to be able to tell the difference between subjective criticism vs. objective crits.

By subjective crits I mean those things that the reader didn't like because of who the reader is. Things that go against their personal preferences. Those crits are not necessarily irrelevant, but I have no problem ignoring them.

It's the objective crits, the crits that have to do with structure, grammar, clarity, consistency, etc., those crits are the ones I home in on. Once I have addressed the objective crits, I figure I have done all I can do.

If I go back later, I am going to be in a different mood. I might write the lead sentence in a slightly different way the next time, even though it says the same thing. Not because it needs it, but just because I am in a slightly different mood. So I know its time to quit.

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EVOC
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For short stories I stop 3 for most. 4 if I make HUGE story changes. Plain and simple for me. Why? I'm scared to death for the write and revise cycle that keeps so many people from getting to submitting.
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NoTimeToThink
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I believe Heinlein made one draft, went through it once to clean it up, and sent it out the door. He only revised if someone would buy on condition of the revision.
If you want, you can spend your entire life working on a single story, but it will never be perfect. And each time you revise, the story becomes less what it originated as, and starts becoming a patchwork.
My pattern now is rough draft, clean up inconsistencies, get reader feedback, cleanup problems (I agree with rcmann about understanding where a crit is coming from), and then send it out the door. I know they'll never be perfect - I want to write as many stories as I can.

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History
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I guess I fall into the quality not quantity group.
Stories, like relationships, are like bonsai trees.
Slow sculptures.*

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

* which recalls a wonderful story by the great Theodore Sturgeon with this title

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GreatNovus
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Do what works for you, as with every facet of writing there is no "right" way. All though if this is really hanging you up I'd go more along the route of what the last few people said.

Read the story you sent me by the way, will send you my thoughts when i get time for a second read.

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Robert Nowall
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I think Heinlein exaggerated when he said one-draft-and-clean-it-up. Of course he did most of his work before word processing...remember, guys, in the days when the typewriter was king, it was a lot more work to do a lot of drafts...

I've tried all the way from one-draft-only to lots of nitpicking revision over and over again...right not, it's usually a first draft, a second draft typed out word for word (so I consider everything I've written), then going over that draft and making the nitpicking revisions, until I'm sick of picking at it.

It's said that no work of art is finished, it's just abandoned...

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babooher
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"Because you can't, you won't, and you don't stop!"

Ahh Beastie Boys...

Anyway, I consider nothing "finished" until it is sold. If nothing else, until I've sold it I can cannibalize it for something else.

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extrinsic
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Once sold, Heinlein also relied heavily on developmental editors for insight into the shortcomings of his works. The typewriter age demanded outside developmental editing. He did write during the age when publishers paid closer attention to developing a project to its best potential. Now we're required by technology and marketplace expectations to hit closer to the mark on our own initiatives.
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