Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tinkering into Oblivion?

For the past few months, I’ve been working on (what is hopefully) the final revision of my WIP… But lately, I’ve started to worry that I might have a problem.

The problem: I can’t seem to stop.

Revising, that is. I felt like I was nearing the end, with line-editing, detail-checking, critique partners, beta readers, and all that, when I started having new ideas.

BIG new ideas.

I think three of my characters got major shifts in motivation. I might entirely change the way the villain interacts with the rest of the cast. And…I’m dropping one of my characters in a different setting entirely.

At this point, it seemed right to sit back and wonder whether all this was a good idea. I have heard of authors who actually need to stop themselves after a certain point in revising. If you keep on finding new things to change, you’ll never be done.

I can tell I have the potential to become this kind of writer—one who needs to force herself to end a project, to shut down all those little ideas that keep jumping inside the suggestion box. In fact, I sincerely believe I could keep tinkering with this story—not this book, maybe, but this story—for the rest of my life. I could keep on changing the plot and deepening the themes and re-defining the characters for a very long time.

But I suppose I would eventually end up in a cycle of change rather than on a path of improvement. It seems the distinction between meaningful revision and tinkering into oblivion hinges on whether your revisions are actually improving your work.

I don’t think I’m there yet. The changes I plan to make will improve my work, not just change it. I know, however, that there will come a day when I will have to call my novel finished. Someday, I’ll have to acknowledge that it’s time to move on, even if I can think of a million more variations on the story I’d like to try.


  1. This is so true. When I was contemplating how to improve my work, a bunch of completely new ideas came into my head. I added a whole book to the series! But it was definitely the right move for this story.

    But I've had some smaller ideas since then that I've had to skip out on--developing certain characters' backstories, for example. Some things you won't find out in the book, and I need to convince myself to be okay with that.

    Maybe take those ideas you have (aside from the ones your story needs) and jot them down in a notebook or a 'story ideas' folder on your computer like I do. Then you can use them for a different story and perfect the one you have instead of just changing it :)

    Good luck!

    (PS--you ask the BEST questions! Both of them are going to end up posts on my blog. Thanks! :D)

  2. Me again :) I answered your question on my blog, and have a whole post about your last question! Click here!

  3. Don't know why the link's not working...but you can get there! :D

  4. Oh yes, I found it! I'm glad my questions were appreciated :D

    And yes...Like I said, I don't think I'm overdoing it quite yet, but at some point the Notebook of Overflow will probably be a good idea.