"When do you know you're done?" is one of the most common questions I get about writing books. I always tell people that you don't know when you're done. You decide. Does that mean you should send out half-baked work? Of course not. But here's what I've found: rarely will you be 100% happy with your work, not today, not when you see it in print. Without fail, I find things I would change in my published work.
But what happens before publication, when you're stuck in what feels like an Endless Edit? I'm not talking about the perfectionistic editing that is only an avoidance strategy. I'm talking about necessary work. Over the weekend, I printed out the first three chapters of my book. I just finished the proposal package. When I read Chapter One, I realized a few unpleasant things. First, it needed significant work. Second, my proposal package was now more thorough and well-written than the book. Third, I was going to have to tell my husband that my book required more work before it met the world. He didn't look particularly happy to hear that.
I'm not happy to be in the limbo of the Endless Edit, but I am grateful for the opportunity it presents. Someday, when I pick up my published book, I'm sure I will find things I would like to change. With the persistence and hard work an Endless Edit requires, however, I believe my chances of being published are much higher. This is the phase that separates many writers from their final dreams. It's easy to run out of patience during editing. To avoid the feelings that the Endless Edit brings, writers may declare their work is finished when it isn't. I refuse to let the Endless Edit defeat me. Patience and perseverance are what is required. Well, and a little bit of stubbornness, but we'll talk about that another day.