John McPhee has a piece called “Structure” in the Writing Life column of the January 14, 2013 issue of The New Yorker.

The last paragraph of the article keeps going round in my mind:

“People often ask how I know when I’m done—not just when I’ve come to the end, but in all the drafts and revisions and substitutions of one word for another how do I know there is no more to do?  When am I done? I just know. I’m lucky that way.  What I know is that I can’t do any better; someone else might do better, but that’s all I can do; so I call it done.” 

Reading that made me realize that I’m actually done with my novel, The Answer to Your Question.  I better be, because it’s published.  But I hadn’t really paused a moment to relish done.  Done!  No more drafts, no more feedback, no more revisions, no more wondering if I’m done.  Because, for better or worse, I’m done.  Like McPhee says, maybe someone else might do better, but that’s all I can do; so I call it done.

And boy, done is sweet. 

I think of all the manuscripts-in-progress I’ve read or critiqued over the years.  Occasionally I’ll get an email from someone telling me their book has been published or they’ve published it.  They’re done!  I’m always immensely pleased when someone crosses the finish line.    

I’m also aware of those who are still running.  You know who you are. The finish line seems far away, sometimes wavering in the distance like a mirage, or just when you think you’re about to cross it, it moves farther away. 

Keep going. Keep running.  Get to done.  It can be done.  In both senses of the word. 

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  • Hi, Joanne.  I'm so glad you're "done" too! Congratulations!  You ask a burning question: is it possible to market AND write at the same time!  I'm struggling with that myself. Just this week I began to work on a novel I had put aside to publish ANSWER and then do a flurry of marketing on it this past month -- what, exactly, I did, I'm not sure -- gave a reading, did a KDP giveaway which I tried to announce on a million giveaway sites (very tedious), and wow, whatever else I can't even remember, except that I was obsessed with "marketing" for about a month.  Now I'm setting a timer and turning off the world to work on my new novel for an hour a day (or half hour if I can't manage the hour), and I can tell you it feels GREAT.  Just to be writing again, trying, discovering things as I go about the characters.  You may have to devote yourself to marketing for a bit, but once the initial push is over, you can get back to writing and just do the marketing in smaller pieces, not let it take over your life! At least that's the way it seems to me.  Good luck!  best, P 

  • Mardith, it is great to hear from you again, and yes, I remember you, though where the class was, I don't remember either.  So glad to hear you're writing and belong to shewrites.  Thanks for the nice words, and we're all still working--that never stops!  Keep me posted on your stuff -- best, P 

  • Joanne Barney

    Done! And, like you,  I do feel good about Graffiti Grandma, the POD resting here on my desk. Now I have to market it, but it's taken years to get her there.  I need to take a long walk, appreciate the moment, and calm down the little girl wiggling in my consciousness, wanting to get out.  Paulette, is it possible to market and to write at the same time?  I hope so because an old lady and a very young one are depending on it. 

  • Mardith Louisell

    Paulette, I worked with you years ago in Minneapolis, either at Loft of U of M.  I always liked your writing and was glad to see you appear on SheWrites with a new novel and descriptions about how it came to be and your process. Good luck with it all. From One of Those Still Working!

  • RYCJ Revising

    Thanks Paulette, and true Daphne. Much of what's on OEBooks Blog is mostly me, although having recently partnered up over at 'OE', in the past six, or so months, my 'control' has been confiscated at what I'm calling an alarming rate. But then that's a whole 'nother subject. 

    Again, a great post. In addition to tweeting, I might write a post to highlight this one.

  • Daphne Q

    I like this post a lot, Paulette. An important issue that isn't discussed much!

  • Ester Benjamin Shifren

    Thanks so much for your lovely comments. I'm fortunate to be an international public speaker, so I already have several events lined up, including some in Buffalo NY and Toronto, Ontario. Over the years I collected a huge platform, and now I'm trying to keep up with all my connections. I wish I knew how to use social media more effectively, but I'm learning all the time, and I comment on lots of blogs, attend webinars and teleconferences, and live conferences etc. I also belong to three writing clubs, and was part of a terrific critique group for several years. It all helps. It's an awful lot of work, but so enriching to achieve so much on one's own. Kudos to all writers who just carry on carrying on, against all odds. We're in a good place now.

  • Paulette Bates Alden

    Wow, RYCJ, thanks, and WOW again, you have a most interesting, impressive, original and articulate blogsite over at OEBOOKS!  Are you OEBOOKS?  You alone, I mean?  Whatever, you're doing some good stuff!  And you're obviously busy, publishing something like 19 books. Love the cover of "My Love."  It's inspiring to see someone (you) taking such control of your creative life/products.  Thanks for your note!  P 

  • Paulette Bates Alden

    Ester, I just looked your book Hiding in a Cave of Trunks up on Amazon, and it sounds totally fascinating:  What an amazing family saga, so rich in history and multi-cultural interest.  I'm amazed at your life!  It's so great that you wrote this story and put it out into the world.  Only you could do it.  A story only you could tell, and tell well, apparently.  Congratulations, and thanks for your good wishes!  P 

  • Ester Benjamin Shifren

    It's so true that one can stay forever on the runway, and no time in the air! I think some of it is fear that your work may elicit criticism and not be a success. Well—I finally finished my book and self published. What a fabulous win! It's just doing so well, and now I'm thinking of starting my second book right away. I wasted a lot of time, but I think the lesson has been learned, and I am encouraged by my success and the knowledge and friends I've gained along the rocky path to launching. thanks for this great post, and best wishes for your success.

  • RYCJ Revising

    Wonderful! Very inspiring post, especially given that there are readers who look for writer's who write in a style they connect with, and enjoy devouring. I know because I'm that reader!

    It takes the avid reader who's connected with a certain writer, or style of writing, on the average a day or so to read the book... which this reader will be looking for more of the same.

    So yes, nurture the work to get it to be the best we can, but perfect on knowing when to say "Done" so that 'we' can continue feeding our reader's insatiable appetites. I love this post! 

  • Paulette Bates Alden

    Excellent point, Catherine!  Maybe one is never done!  But yes, I have the arduous task of marketing it ahead.  My publication reading is next Wednesday, and I'm looking forward to that.  I haven't had time to do any real promoting but hope to do some in March.  Though now that I think about it, not sure what to do!  I will report back if and when I have something to say/some experience under my belt regarding that. Open to suggestions, folks!  

  • Catherine Hiller

    But are you really done?  Don't you still have the arduous task of marketing it?  Anyway, great that you've made this milestone and so good of you to share your knowledge with us.

  • Paulette Bates Alden

    hi, Ms. Zguta!  You're such a pal.  Such a warm, generous supporter, of me and others!  Gives me a lift whenever I hear from you.  Thanks for your kindness and good cheer.  P 

  • Paulette Bates Alden

    Oh, Donna, I can SO relate. I went through my own cover wars/fatigue.  But done it will be, trust that, and after that it gets a lot more fun.  

    Thank you SO MUCH for downloading ANSWER -- I really hope you enjoy it!  Keep me posted on your book.  P 

  • Donna Kaulkin

    I just downloaded your book and can't wait to add my voice to the kudos on Amazon. Congratulations!

    I am still struggling with CreateSpace on a decent cover for Brenda Corrigan Went Downtown." After experiencing that wonderful "I'm Done," feeling you describe six weeks ago, I find I'm not done; I am waiting for the designers to be "done." Frustrating.


  • Elisabeth Zguta Publishing

    Good luck with finding time to write your newest book.  It sounds like another great story in the making.  Your knack of bringing the character to life will really give justice to your storyline.  All the classes you teach are very important and touch lives too.  I can see how the on-line course would need a thorough layout. - Congrats, and best of luck with sales of An Answer To Your Question.  I hope some of our SW friends check your book out.  It was a great read.

  • Paulette Bates Alden

    Hi, Dear Elisabeth,  thanks for your nice note and support.  And question!  I'm about half way into the first draft of a novel based on a 1947 lynching in my home town of Greenville, S.C.  It will have four characters each telling their stories of the psychological, emotional and spiritual effects of the murder and trial.  But I am greatly waylaid by writing a ten-week curriculum for an on-line memoir course I'll be teaching for Stanford in the spring. I've never had to write out a detailed curriculum and it is mind-boggling and time-consuming!  best, P 

  • Elisabeth Zguta Publishing

    Letting go is hard.  Paulette, you wrote a wonderful story and thank you for sharing your process of self-pub.  The question now is - What's next in line at Radiator Press?  Do you have another story mulling?

  • Paulette Bates Alden

    What a great comment, Betsy.  How you felt it in your bones, your body!  

    Of course I have to remember that I've been fooled a number of times into thinking I was "done" when I wasn't.  But you're saying there is something beyond "thought" -- maybe a gut-level feeling.  And maybe it isn't absolute, but more "here I take my stand" kind of thing -- I've given it the best I can, I've gone the distance, I'm ready to let go . . .  

  • Betsy Graziani Fasbinder

    Great post, Paulette.  I thought (the operative word here is "thought") I was done with my novel a few times.  But when I "felt" it, I knew it in my bones, not just my head.