How Do You Know If Your Novel Is Truly Ready?
Are you satisfied with the story you’ve created?
This is a question that will haunt almost every writer. After so much time engrossed in our writing journeys, most of us forget that—eventually—that journey has to end. There comes a point when we simply can’t make any more meaningful changes to our novels, no matter how hard we try or how long we sit staring at the page.
As you wind down the process of editing your novel, you too will face this question. When is your story truly ready, and how can you know for sure? Well, the answer is that finishing a novel is an act of faith—and that’s why you have to trust both yourself and your story.
This article is based on the final chapter of my book, The Ten Day Edit.
Not only will this book guide you as you learn to appreciate your final novel, but it’ll also help you create a finished novel in the first place. If you enjoy this post, I hope you’ll consider checking it out! 🙂
The Fear of Being “Ready”
First of all, let’s be honest—we’re all perfectionists, even if just a little bit.
No matter how much we know perfection is a myth, we still want our stories to live up to the perfect ideas we have in our head. As a result, almost all of us will continue tinkering and picking at our manuscript long after it’s finished, hoping that it’ll eventually (magically) feel perfect.
However, that’s not the only thing preventing you from calling your novel done.
There’s also a good degree of fear involved in this process. You’re likely intimidated by the next step, whether that’s querying literary agents, self-publishing, or starting a new novel—and who could blame you?
Not only do you have to face the unknowns of the publishing world and the potential for rejection, but also the scary possibility that your second novel might not be as good as your first. All of these fears are valid, and almost all of us will face them. Heck, I’m currently publishing my third book, and I still have fears and doubts about the process.
Still, just because these fears are real, doesn’t mean they’re right.
The reality is that no novel is perfect, no matter how amazing or legendary it is. Likewise, every novel, no matter how niche or mass market, will have at least one person in the world who loves it and one who hates it. No amount of editing or polishing will change this, and every author will have to face rejection at some point along their journey. And finally, if you’ve written one novel, it’s pretty safe to say you have another idea or two waiting in the wings.
Even though the dreaded second novel syndrome is very real, second, third, and fourth novels are really no more difficult than first ones—they just present new challenges.
Learning to Trust Your Novel
Of course, no matter how much you reject perfectionism and face your fears, accepting that your novel is ready still isn’t easy. So what should you do?
Well, the key is to trust yourself and your story.
Trust that the story you’ve created is strong, and trust that you’ve done your best work, no matter how much doubt and fear you feel. Specifically, take some time to just read your story. Put away your highlighters, pens, and notebooks, curl up in a comfy chair, and read your manuscript from start to finish. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes—you’re here for entertainment, so just enjoy the experience.
Then, once you’ve finished reading your novel, ask these questions:
- Did you keep your promises to your readers?
- Did you answer the questions you set up?
- Did your story’s conflict reach a clear conclusion?
- Did each of your characters always have a goal pushing them forward?
- Did your internal logic stay consistent?
- Did you give your readers a satisfying payoff?
- Did your protagonist earn their victory or deserve their failure?
If you find that your story is severely lacking in any of these things, then maybe you do want to consider another round of editing. However, if you’ve started to feel like your story is ready, you’ve probably reached a point where there aren’t any more meaningful changes you can make to your novel—without writing an entirely new one, of course.
This is when you’re left to face the final question:
Are you satisfied with the story you’ve created?
Did you do your best work? Are you proud of your story? Even if it isn’t perfect and even if it isn’t the novel you imagined in your head, remind yourself to recognize its strengths and triumphs, no matter how small.
Above all, trust your story—if your gut is telling you it’s ready, it probably is.
Your Writing Journey Never Ends
Every novel you write will be a learning experience.
When you think of it that way, your writing journey never truly ends. The more you read and learn, the more you grow as a writer and hone your skills, and because of this your fifth novel will be far different from your first. Yet, that doesn’t mean your early novels are any worse than the later ones—it just means they’re different.
The truth is that, even after publishing this novel you’ll still be a writer, you’ll still have more stories to create, and you’ll still face challenges along the way. Publication won’t change any of that. At the end of the day, writing is an amazing thing—especially in these difficult times—so don’t hold yourself back if you know in your gut that your novel is ready.
Instead, trust yourself and your story. You have many more amazing things to write, and it’s time for this novel to meet the outside world. 🙂