Every day I receive a “Kick in the Pants” email from David Farland’s blog. They’re filled with valuable tips about writing and I always look forward to them. Last week, he posted a link to a Q & A video about writing, and one of the participants asked the following question: “I still wake up at night with new ideas and revised dialogue for my story. How will I know when my story is finished?”
David’s response was that as long as his brain was still sending him new ideas then his story wasn’t finished. In other words, this was his brain’s way of telling him the story wasn’t ready for prime time. While I see his point, I’m not entirely sure I agree with it. At some point, I think you have to put an end to the tinkering and say “enough is enough,” even when your brain is still churning out ideas.
Although I’m writing my own stories these days, I still occasionally work on the fanfic story I began writing over five years ago. I learned a lot about writing during that time, and my fanfic has gone through countless revisions as I applied everything I’ve learned. Yet despite the fact that some of the earlier chapters have probably been edited and revised umpteen million times, I still occasionally dream up new ways of tweaking them. (Usually during a shower or while I’m driving to work.)
The question is: Do these changes really make the story better after all this time? Sometimes yes, but usually not by much. I suspect these new ideas are more like shiny new toys, perhaps some new technique I just discovered in a writing book. Fun to think about and experiment with, but not really improving the story. Different perhaps, but not better.
So I’ve come to understand that I’ll never stopping thinking of new ways to write a chapter, even long after the chapter has been finished. At some point, I’ll just have to force myself to write “The End” and move on. Because if I wait for the ideas to stop rolling in, I’ll never publish a story.
When do you stop making changes to your stories?