Anyone who has ever worked in a creative field has this asked at least once. Writing a book isn’t like baking a cake, you don’t put the mix in the oven and wait until the manuscript is a golden brown. The work is a constant thing, from one day to the next and from one week to the next. You work and tweak and write and change. But how do you know when you’ve done enough? The answer is that you don’t. In some cases, you’ll have a deadline and anything you can fit within that frame of time is what you have to be satisfied with, but working in self-publishing mostly removes these deadlines and leaves the matter of whether or not a work is done entirely in the hands of the writer.
So, how can you know? Experiences is one way. If you’ve written books before, you have a good idea about what a completed novel needs. It’s also important to have an idea about what you want from your novel. That doesn’t mean that you should plan out the entire thing before you start, but are you trying to do a character-driven piece or an action/adventure piece? Understanding this can help you better understand at what point your novel is “finished.”
I ought to have plenty of experience with this by now, but I’m writing this entry because the idea of making a few more changes to Murder at the End of the World is starting to seem a little appealing. I know I should leave well enough alone and be satisfied with what I did, but I can’t help but think all these little thoughts like “What if I changed this?” or “What if I added this?” or “What if I deleted this?” The more I think about it, the more I want to do.
It’s frustrating to never be satisfied. But I think it’s also necessary. The creator who is satisfied is the creator who stops improving. In never truly being satisfied, I force myself to continually improve. To write better, to notice flaws more readily, and to ultimately turn out a better product. Of course, the necessity of this feeling doesn’t change the fact that it’s still very frustrating.