How to Know When Your Book is Done

Pen Writing for Marcia's blog.jpg

One of the issues that comes up frequently with my clients and students, especially those who have been working on a particular project for a long time, is “How do I know when it’s done?”

1)    The most telling indication, I believe, is when you realize you are simply moving furniture around and not revising. You are no longer improving your work, but simply changing it. It’s not better, it’s just a different way of expressing what you want to express. When that happens, it’s time to put down the pencil (pen, cursor, etc.) and let it be.

2)    When you find yourself having trouble choosing between one word, one phrase, one sentence, one paragraph or another, it’s time to stop. You’re not improving, just changing things. (See above.)

3)    You spend inordinate amounts of time in indecisive revision. Despite the stories of famous authors spending days on one word, you’re not them. Hemingway is said to have rewritten the ending to A Farewell to Arms forty-seven times. Fine, he’s Hemingway, and he probably drove his editor to near suicide. Don’t be that crazy.

4)    Read your work out loud. How does it sound? If it flows, let it go. If not, fix those spots, but don’t agonize over the whole manuscript.

5)    Let it marinate for a while. Put the book (story, poem) in a drawer for a period of time. Advice varies on this—I would say at least a month, some say a year. Whatever it turns out to be, you will come back to your work with fresh eyes (and a fresh sensibility). Things will jump out needing work, or the whole manuscript will wow you. Either way you will know what to do.

6)    Go for a walk! Get away from the work. Put some space between you and the writing. This is similar to No. 5, but it’s more appropriate while you’re in active revision. I have always found a sojourn into the woods or to the beach opens up new approaches to the writing. Get away.

7)    Recognize when things aren’t working and likely never will. Sometimes the story just isn’t working. LET IT GO! At some point it may morph into something else. But sometimes you have to be brutally honest with yourself and realize some projects just aren’t ever going to work.

8)    There are writers who outline and writers who don’t. If you’re one who doesn’t, and find yourself stuck in a cul de sac, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Consider an outline.

9)    Do you still care? If you have come to the place in your heart where you HATE this project, it’s time to step away. Perhaps not forever, but for now.

If any of these things are true for you, take stock. You may be ready to submit. Or perhaps not.

One final thought: I am assuming you are in a writing group or have been able to take advantage of writing workshops or the expertise of a good editor to get feedback along the way. If not, get yourself into a competent group or hire a good writing coach. You can’t learn how to write in a vacuum; it takes years of practice and mentoring. Take advantage of every opportunity to master writing. Then trust your gut and heart when deciding if your book is done. 

Unmasked Launched; Rabbi Mysteries Unveiled; Yuko Ready to Fly

  Unmasked  contributors, from left, Renata Golden, editor Marcia Meier, Tania Pryputniewicz, Lisa Rizzo, and Barbara Rockman.

Unmasked contributors, from left, Renata Golden, editor Marcia Meier, Tania Pryputniewicz, Lisa Rizzo, and Barbara Rockman.

 Marcia and Kathleen at Carr Winery.

Marcia and Kathleen at Carr Winery.

So much has happened in the month or so since I returned from Greece, both personally and professionally. Kathleen Barry and I launched our new anthology, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, at two events in October: A reading and signing at San Diego Writers, Ink, with four of the contributors to the book, and a reading and signing at Carr Winery in Santa Barbara. We had a wonderful turnout at both, and look forward to another reading at Tecolote Books in Montecito on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 5 p.m. Also in the works are readings in Venice at Beyond Baroque (8 p.m. January 28), and an early February performance at Center Stage Theater of "Unmasked LIVE, Women Read About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty." Stay tuned for more details. 

 Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer signs a book for a fan.

Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer signs a book for a fan.

A week ago, more than 60 people came out to Chaucer's Books in Santa Barbara to celebrate the publication of Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer's second mystery novel, The Rabbi Wore a Fedora, and the reprinting of his first, The Rabbi Wore Moccasins

Next Saturday, Nov. 11, at 3 p.m., Tecolote Books will help us bring out Dick Jorgensen's second memoir, Yuko, Friendship Between Nations, about his world tour as he traveled back to the States from Japan in 1957, and his subsequent work with The Asia Foundation in San Francisco, promoting improved ties between the two former World War II enemies. Come join us!

Keep all these Weeping Willow Books in mind as you make your holiday lists for the bookworms in your life!

They Speak Irish

  A poem   and photograph from my latest book,  Ireland, Place out of Time (2017).  Order your copy here.

A poem and photograph from my latest book, Ireland, Place out of Time (2017). Order your copy here.

They Speak Irish

On Inis Oirr, smallest of three Arans,
we give over our Euros
for a carriage ride ’round the isle

Horse clops ring on the rocky
road, past thatched
roofs in a town

little changed in five centuries
Past the cemetery where headstones
pronounce the dead in Gaelic

Of course there are sheep,
there are always sheep,
fleeces marked in neon

Here bygone mixes—if uneasily—
with modern; tourists
now the primary trade

We ride out to a ship foundered on rocks
decades before, its rusted hulk
reminder of the sea’s treacheries

Ireland’s west coast
remains ancient land
—a place out of time

The Pony on the Point

  A poem   and photograph from my latest book,  Ireland, Place out of Time (2017).   Order your copy here.

A poem and photograph from my latest book, Ireland, Place out of Time (2017). Order your copy here.

The Pony on the Point

His face turned to the wood, the black pony
blends into the almost dusk,
cold descends upon the steppes

a single homestead stands
out against the rocky cliffs
above the sea

Grasses nearly obscure him
we see only his neck thick with fur and mane
his dark eyes pools of light through the mist

Stock still, he considers us, strangers
at the overgrown gate, as my camera
finds him in the unforgiving landscape

Join me at my book signing - July 22

Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito, CA, will host me for a book signing in celebration of my newest collection of poetry, Ireland, Place Out of Time, on Saturday, July 22, from 3-5 p.m

This work of art was inspired by my trip to Ireland in October 2015. The sixteen poems, paired with my photographs, depict varied experiences encountering the rugged natural landscape, ancient ruins, the Irish people and their many sheep, and other travelers along the way.

I hope to see you that afternoon! Tecolote is at 1470 East Valley Road, in Montecito, near Santa Barbara. If you can't make it, you can order my book here.