How to Decide When Your Book is Done

Updated on June 11, 2017
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert, nonfiction book editor, author of 21+ books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.

Source

Perfection Paralysis

Every once in a while, I am hired by a self published author who is a perfectionist. When coming on board, they usually tell me that this is not the first edit or proofreading that's been done. Some have reported that my review is as high as the ninth or tenth round. Wow. So I may be one in a long line of editors, beta readers, and proofreaders working on this book. They may also tell me that they've been working on this book for months or years.

While I applaud their conscientiousness, I'm also concerned that these folks have slipped into perfection paralysis. For some, I wonder how many other editor reviews after mine they will need to feel that their books are done and ready for publication.

The Approval Problem

Sometimes this perfection paralysis is more than just a quest for the perfect book. It may be a cry for approval.

Writing can be a lonely profession, with many hours spent laboring in solitude over a manuscript. There's no one there to give authors an "attaboy" or "attagirl" compliment. They're worried that their work just doesn't measure up. Yet the measuring stick by which their books will be evaluated is invisible and elusive, because it's really the market that decides. So these authors look to their editors and beta readers to give them the approval they need to go ahead.

Source

The Goal Problem

One of the reasons that these authors cannot move their books from "to do" to "done" is that they have no clue what the mission is for their book. The only goal they have is to write a book. So they're never sure if the book is really done.

The Ego Problem

Because authors can fall in love and get married to their books, they can be put off by editors and beta readers who criticize their work. So they hire more and more in an attempt to dismiss any who have bruised their fragile egos. This is also an approval problem since these authors need to have validation that they and their books are good enough.

Sense of Loss

Especially when authors have labored over a book for an extended period of time, they can feel a sense of loss as a book project comes to a conclusion. In this case, they may love the writing process more than the result. Ending the project destroys their purpose and causes them to worry about what they'll do when the book is finally finished. So to avoid the feelings of loss and confusion, they just keep endlessly working on the same book project that has brought them so much joy and satisfaction.

Knowing when a book will be done should actually be determined BEFORE it's even written.

— Heidi Thorne

So How Do You Decide When Your Book is Done?

Knowing when a book will be done should actually be determined BEFORE it's even written. Determining the mission, message, or story of the book—your why—is the first order of business when self publishing. Then it takes discipline and determination to keep moving forward.

The following tips can help keep a book moving toward the finish line:

The Checklist. Make a list of ideas or story elements that need to be included and completed. A book's outline can also be used instead of a checklist. Once all of those points can be crossed off as achieved, then the basic content of the book is done and ready for the next stage of development. That next stage should include self editing and, ideally, review by beta readers, editors, and proofreaders to fine tune the manuscript before production begins.

Avoid the Never Ending Editing Loop. The biggest caution is not to let the book get stuck in round after round (after round!) of editing. Establish a point at which development and editing must end and production begins. Setting a realistic and specific date deadline for that point can help mentally and emotionally let go of perfection paralysis.

Limit the Number of Editors and Beta Readers. The other caution is to limit the number of editors used. The nine or ten editors that some authors report using is way too many. Even just one or two competent and professional editors can be enough; only hire more to address specific or troublesome aspects of the manuscript. Often, more beta readers than editors are hired. But even for that, limit that number to just a handful of beta readers to avoid being overwhelmed and unnecessarily changing the book to address several conflicting opinions.

Take Your Ego Out of the Equation. Professional editors and beta readers are committed to helping authors create the best possible version of a book. It is of little consequence to them if the author agrees with their assessments or not. So get your ego out of the picture and be prepared to receive and use their constructive criticism.

Become the Observer, Not the Lover. It's been my experience that once I finish a book—even before!—I'm already thinking about my next writing adventure. I take the Zen approach of becoming the observer of my work, watching my career and projects move forward, rather than getting stuck falling in love with my books and the writing process.

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Heidi Thorne

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      15 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi AliciaC! I'm going to agree with you on that. :) But I'll admit that it's an easy trap to slip into. Thanks, as always, for your support! Have a beautiful day!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      15 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You've shared some great advice, as always. I love the term "perfection paralysis". It certainly sounds applicable to nine or ten rounds of editing!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      15 months ago from Chicago Area

      Flourish, I can't either! OMG, I would be nuts by the time I've reached the third round. Yep, too much navel gazing, too little results. Thanks for putting the exclamation point on the discussion! Have a beautiful Monday!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      15 months ago from Chicago Area

      Billybuc, I definitely wouldn't think you have a problem with this! :) You're very committed and organized. Thanks for stopping by this morning and have a marvelous Monday!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I've heard of people who have this problem. I never have. I pretty much know the ending point by the midpoint in my writing....anyway, as always, good analysis and information. Happy Monday to you!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      15 months ago from USA

      Talk about not being able to let go! I cannot imagine that many rounds of editing. I'm too action-oriented. There is a point where good enough has to be good enough. That's what frustrated me about academic writing: the navel gazing. At some point we all just need to get over ourselves and deliver the baby.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)