How Do You Know When Your Work in Progress Is Ready?

How do you know when your book is done?

How do you know when your work in progress is ready?

I admit, it can be hard to make that call. Just recently, I’ve gone back to a deep revision (aka substantive edit) of my work in progress, a nonfiction narrative on the names of Jesus.

I can’t believe it’s been nearly 10 years since I started writing this particular work in progress…and nearly five years since I’ve last touched it.
I think it’s about time to get this done.

Posted on Instagram

It is part Bible study and part narrative journey, some prose, some poetry.

I began writing it in spring 2012. It is now early summer of 2021. Yes, I’ve been at it for nearly ten years.

The strange thing is, when it comes to editing books for others (and I’ve edited well over 100 full-length manuscripts in the past 10 years), I generally have a lot more confidence in their work than in my own.

Well, not always.

I have worked with a broad range of writing styles and manuscript “readiness.”

I recall communicating with one client and letting him know in as gentle a way as possible that, although I provided a solid line edit and suggested changes throughout, his manuscript really was not ready to be published.

It needed substantive work and development.

He basically said thanks but no thanks, and then proceeded to self-publish.

Please take note that just because you choose to self publish doesn’t mean you only have to put forth minimal work in your work in progress.

In fact, you should put forth even more time and effort and focus. And you should hire an editor at some point for an outside look.

It might be a simple proofread or line edit or a more development edit of your work, but it’s worth it.

I am a freelance editor with an MFA in writing and English and years of writing and editing under my belt, but I personally would not publish my work without some outside help: a few beta readers to offer outside insight, someone to perform a final proofread, etc.

The working title is Behold the Man. It’s kind of a study, kind of a poetic journey, on the names of Jesus.
I’m interested in names, the process of naming, the way names affect us, and the practice of naming in different cultures and different times.
And then there is Jesus, and the different names and titles used for him and given him throughout the biblical narrative.

Posted on Instagram

So, back to the question:

How do you know when your work in progress is ready?

Is there a way to know when your book is done and set for the next step … whether that step is self-publishing or looking for an agent or searching for a publisher on your own?

The thing is, five years ago, my manuscript was ready. My work in progress was not a work in progress. My book was done.

I even attended several writer’s conferences and shopped around a bit. Sent out a few proposals. The response was always the same:

The content is great. You have a unique and creative writing style. You do not have a platform … sorry.

I paraphrase, but that was the gist of it.

So, I admit I got a little disillusioned with various aspects of the publishing industry (but that is for another post).

I closed my work in progress and returned to hone the craft of writing. I obtained an undergraduate degree in English and a graduate degree in Creative Writing.

I read. I studied…

… and I wrote.

I also edited. A lot. Editing has been my work-from-home career since 2010.

Was my book ready for publishing at the time?

It actually was … for me … at the time.

That is to say, Behold the Man, my work in progress, was ready to publish for the person I was five years ago.

But not now.

About the little snippet above, I first encountered the idea of “gospel as fairy tale” in Frederick Buechner’s writing, and have since seen it in other places (including Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories”). It’s one of the threads I hope to work further into the book as I move forward.

Posted on Instagram

A lot has happened in the past five or so years since I last updated my work in progress, and having opened it recently and begun to do the work on it, my book is not ready for the person I am today.

I admit it is far easier for me to write first drafts than edit my work. I have written one draft every November for the past few years as part of NaNoWriMo.

Although copy editing, developmental editing, even rewriting various clients’ work has been my primary vocation for the past ten years, I find it harder to figure out what to say when it comes to my own work.

It’s a challenge to sort and sift and find the right words, especially revisiting a WIP (work in progress) that stood “complete” for over five years.

So, what about you?

Have you been working on a book? Fiction? Nonfiction?

Have you set it aside because life got in the way?

Maybe it’s time to open that computer file or find those old papers. Maybe it’s time to begin again.

If you need an outside glimpse of your writing, feel free to get in touch. I assist writers at any stage of their writing journey.

The above segment is from the section Emmanuel – one of my “favorite” names used for Jesus in the Bible. I think I love it because of its meaning (and its reminder): God with us.
I guess that’s also why the song “O Come Emmanuel” is one of my favorite traditional Christmas songs.
It is a plea that stands in between the “already” and the “not yet” … the place where we stand and so often feel alone. The place where we struggle with a thousand and one questions that may never be answered on this side of eternity.

Posted on Instagram

Writing is not an easy task.

Rewriting can prove even more difficult.

But as with anything else, as with life itself, we take the writing journey one step at a time.

We move forward, at least a little every day … sometimes hesitantly and sometimes with more confidence.

We invite friends along and make new friends along the way.

And for writers, we do it because it is part of who we are.

And for perfectionist writers (like someone I know), we might take a little longer than average, but our work, and our souls, will hopefully be the better for it.

So, how do you know if your work in progress is ready?

How do you know if your book is done?

I think you know …

… and if there’s still work you need to do, what are you waiting for?

One thought on “How Do You Know When Your Work in Progress Is Ready?

Comments are closed.