How Do You Know When a Story is Done?

This is a question I ask myself on a near daily basis. After all, there’s some external metric by which you can measure your story for completeness and determine whether or not its submission ready, right? Right?!?

Sharpen those pencils and just write!

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. at least, it hasn’t been the case for me. In fact, I seem to be utterly clueless as to when a story has received all of the love and attention from revision it requires to be submitted. I either don’t polish enough and leave rough bits and craggy phrases exposed for the world to see or I polish too much and buff the life right out the words. Sigh. It’s a delicate balance that I’ve yet to master.

I wish there was a shortcut. A buzzer that sounds when you’ve revised just enough and edited just enough. An alarm that wails when you’re plugging away at a story that just. doesn’t. work. so you quit wasting your time and move on already would be nice, too.

If I’ve learned one thing from this writing thing it’s that there are no external metrics. Your stories are your stories. They’re finished when you say they’re finished. Besides understanding the fundamentals of grammar and sentence structure and genre tropes, you’re on your own. All you can hope for is that what you consider a completed and well-written story matches up with the views of an editor.

I haven’t really answered the question in the title here, but I guess that’s the point. A story is done when you say it is. Now if only I heeded my own advice.

I’d love to hear your views on this subject. How do you determine when a story is completed? Countless revisions? Several positive critiques? What pushes you to feel comfortable sending that story out into the world?

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3 thoughts on “How Do You Know When a Story is Done?

  1. I totally agree with you–it’s so hard to tell when something is done. Most of the time I have no freakin’ idea, and it never seems to be the same from project to project. I wish there was a shortcut, too…

    This is right on, though: “All you can hope for is that what you consider a completed and well-written story matches up with the views of an editor.” Yep.

    • It varies from project to project for me, too. Sometimes all I want is someone to say, “Yup, this is done,” so I can stop fretting, but guess that’s the whole point, isn’t it? These are our stories and ours alone.

      I’m glad you agree. It’s all so subjective. Stories I thought were just okay, editors loved. Stories I’ve loved, editors hated. lol I don’t know if I’ll ever figure this out. =)

  2. I have been writing for years. An essay here, a rant there, take a stab at poetry over here. I had never worried about them being done. Recently A decided to take a hobby of writing adult themed shorts for my wife, and see if I can get a few published. It has changed the entire writing experience. Suddenly time seems at a premium and I surely don’t want to waste any. I submitted a few short stories I already had, and then keep working on other projects, but what are they looking for? I dont know? I really have to wait twelve weeks or more to find out if a faceless editor thinks my stuff is any good? I don’t want to waste time on stuff they dont want, but if you dont keep writing to process could take even longer. When do you stop? What is done? Who knows. In the end I think you just have to be true to what is yours. If they dont like fine, but your chances of success seem higher if you are authentic.

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