Posted by: Kathleen Mix | July 29, 2015

Why a Book is Never Finished

Typing The End on the last page of a manuscript rarely means that the book is finished. The story in the author’s mind might have concluded, but more work remains.
Scenes may need revision, the pace may be slow, or the characters may lack depth. Maybe the theme could be strengthened or the plot tightened. Maybe the sentences need more descriptive nouns or more powerful verbs. Maybe the punctuation would make an English teacher cringe.
With most of my books, I’ve plotted carefully, written several drafts, run the final draft past my critique group, checked phrasing and grammar, and polished every word. I didn’t settle for good enough. I scrutinized every sentence until I couldn’t find any more errors. I kept working and delayed sending the manuscript to my agent until I believed it was as good as I could possibly make it.
In every case, after the book sold, an editor has sent me an email with her critique notes. My editors have always found errors and pointed out places where the manuscript could be improved. Their fresh set of eyes and unique perspective on the subject allowed them to see the manuscript’s flaws.
Which brings us to the moral of the story, so to speak. No manuscript is perfect. No author or editor can see every flaw or opportunity for improvement. No book is ever one-hundred percent finished. All the author can do is make every book the best they can possibly produce at that particular stage of their career.
Every reader is unique, and that person’s background and experience will affect how he or she interprets a book’s words. The reader’s values and beliefs will influence which emotions a book evokes. Even manuscripts that have been edited several times for content and been examined repeatedly for grammar and punctuation will still contain inconsistencies or mechanical errors. A reader might find a misspelled word or a missing conjunction. Years later, the author may have learned new techniques and, when she looks through her own book, may find scenes she wishes she’d handled differently.
For better or worse, writers and editors are human. Try as we may, the books we produce will always be slightly flawed. Some critic or reviewer will always be able to say, “I noticed one small problem.”


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