This month's question: How do you know your story is ready?

This is a great question for me just now, since I'm in the final stages of editing, revising, re-editing, and cover design for my next book, the 3rd Ninja Librarian book (see below...).

Whether you are an author-publisher or have gone the traditional route, this is a question you have to address somewhere along the line. Whether the question is "is it ready to publish?" or "is it ready to send to agents?" you get to edit and revise and second-guess yourself more or less endlessly (having an editor and a contract might be helpful here, since someone will be telling you to finish it already). So how do you know when it's done?

I have no idea how you know when your book is done. For me, it's a gradual process and a fuzzy decision. I gather my feedback, do everything I can, get a little more feedback...and when I reach the point that I really don't think I can make it any better, I give it to my proof-reader, which puts an absolute end to my chances to make changes. But even then...when I re-read my first book, I want to make more changes. I'm never really satisfied, and so in some ways, it's a totally arbitrary line. I remember when I wrote my dissertation, and my director sent it back to me again and again until I drew a line and told her "this is as good as I can/am willing to make it. Take it or leave it" (there may have been some profanity involved there, at least in my mind). You never achieve perfection, but you want to come as close as you can, and then stop.

I think, with the endless possibilities for revision offered by ebooks and print-on-demand publishing, a more interesting question might be: when do you know you should unpublish and revise again? I haven't done that--yet--with any of my books, though I did have to re-proof one book after I released it, when early readers found more typos than I was comfortable with. (That was my fault--I didn't use my usual proof-reader, shame on me!). But I have considered pulling The Ninja Librarian--not for any big changes, but just to tinker some more with the language, smooth out some bits, and remove my efforts to show the characters' speech through idiosyncratic spelling.

What about you? Have you considered--or done--a revision on an already-published book? I realize this is only an option if you are your own publisher, but even if you aren't--have you wished you could?

The Problem of Peggy is scheduled for release Nov. 28. Watch for advance sales information!


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