How do you know when your book is done?

Some writers rush to get a book out, even though it’s full of typos or major flaws plague the story arc. A good many writers, however, never even reach the publishing stage because they’re still “working” on their book. Dissatisfied that their manuscript isn’t of a high enough standard, they continue to tinker and polish, so that their “final draft” perpetually remains a fuzzy vision.

The result sometimes can be frustration that leaves the writer to shelving a good book…or worse, messing up a really good text that should have been left alone.

So when do you know that your book is “done,” that it is ready to be published? You might tackle the revising of the book in three steps.

The first step is to ensure you’ve completed the story arc. If there’s nothing more to say about the plot and the characters because their tale has been told from start to finish – a central problem was presented and after several failures by the main character the central problem was resolved in a way that makes sense and in a consistent point of view – then there’s no need to keep working on the content.

That second step is to buff out the poorly written sentences and to make sure there aren’t any typos. A writer always can find a line they want to change – authors as diverse as John Lennon and Henry James either republished their works with different wording or said they wish they could – so to counter that, you have to set an artificial date for publishing. That means setting a deadline for correcting these typos and polishing the manuscript. The deadline probably should not be a timeframe (such as “six months”) but after a set number of readings of a manuscript.

How many readings is enough? Three is a good minimum number, but six or seven times probably is too many. You presumably were good in language arts and literature classes and so already have a good understanding of grammar, punctuation, spelling and storytelling. Your writing probably is better than you think.

After completing those readings, the third step is to have someone you trust and who is in the know read your manuscript. A person “in the know” means a professional editor or a literary agent who you trust. That person will focus on getting you to fix the stuff that doesn’t work. When you’ve made it through their lists, you’re ready to publish.