As I work on the sequel to The Dark Proposal, I find myself writing and re-writing scenes or even entire chapters again and again. It is mainly because I am not satisfied enough with what I had written, so I re-write whatever I’ve done. I do this three or four times before I can say that I am satisfied with my work. Satisfied enough to move on to the next chapter (BTW, I’m up to Chapter 7 now!!!).
Which makes me wonder: is a writer’s work ever done?
Writers are often their worst critics. We always think there is a better word to describe a character or scene than the one we chose. We always think there are better words for our characters to use. We always think there is a better way to end a scene or chapter. There’s always the right words to use…and yet, we never seem to find them.
Famed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury was said to have put his away his work for a year, before re-reading and re-editing his WIP. James Joyce, the author of the classic novel, Ulysses, was said to have spent all day debating where to put a comma in his WIP.
Writers are never satisfied. There is always room for improvement. There is always something better to describe, explain or talk about. There is always a better word to use, or two or three. And with some stories, there are endless possibilities with the main character(s) that sometimes we wonder if we are covering all the necessary bases, and if we have to cover all of them at all.
Being a writer is frustrating.
And it is not only fiction writers, journalists, essayists, poets and songwriters who deal with this. Even college students writing their countless assigned essays are never completely satisfied with their work. When I discuss re-writing and editing one’s work with my students, I am amazed by how many admit to re-writing their essays even before they hand them in. They always say, there is always room for improvement.
Always room for improvement. So, if nothing is perfect, when does the room for improvement end? When does a writer say, enough is enough! When do we stop driving ourselves crazy?
For me, there is a level of satisfaction that comes with writing that makes me say, enough is enough. I could re-write a whole chapter ad infinitum. But it gets to the point where I cannot let my insecurities rule me like that and I have to say to myself, this chapter is good enough. I am satisfied enough with what I put down. Maybe not 100% satisfied with it, because that is starting to look like an impossibility. But 90% satisfied? 85%? Sure! I can live with that.
I may always want to improve on that chapter, and may just do so in the future before I actually publish my work. But there comes a point where I would need to stop, and say, enough is enough.