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Finishing My Novel—Really?


As I approached the final pages of my novel, I heard the Bugs Bunny chase music in my head. Speed up, speed up, speeeeed up! I wrote faster and more often until it was done. I felt exhausted and exhilarated.

Then came the crash.

All the advice I read was to step away and not look at it for a month before revising. I rebelled. A month?! No, I would forge through and revise it in that precious month and then publish.

If you’re a writer, chances are good you’re either laughing or cringing at this point.

Fortunately, sanity prevailed. I waited a month. I knew there was more work to be done on my novel but it would be minimal. A few tweaks here and there and I could start the next one. Those pages were polished—I had edited earlier sections while writing the later ones so I knew I was ahead in the game.

I read page one. I stopped. I wrote what? She said that?

My characters had changed during the course of the novel and I hadn’t noticed.

It took me days to stop sulking and realize that was a good thing. It wasn’t that they became other people—they just grew as their circumstances changed. But work was needed to make the transitions smooth.

I revised. It took months. (Hopefully, the process will become shorter with future books.)

But here’s some of what I learned:

There are wonderful books on editing out there that can walk you through the cutting-the-fat stage. Read them. Apply them. And remember:

(1) Spell check.

(2) Manual check. (More on this below.)

If you skip these two steps, be prepared for the criticism that will rain down on your baby. But more to the point, isn’t our goal to give readers something good to read? Why spoil it for them with bad grammar and misspellings? And why should they take a chance on you next time?

What do I mean by manual check? Reread your story. Does it flow? I watched an old movie where the heroine walked through a secret passageway holding a candle. She turned the corner and held a flashlight instead. Ouch.

Also, it’s possible to fall so in love with our work that we write in a haze. I once read a book where I skimmed almost a hundred pages and didn’t miss anything in terms of action or character.

Cut every word that doesn’t add to its beauty, its horror, its action.

So. My novel has been written. It isn’t finished. But I’m very close now.

Back to work.

Image courtesy of Just2shutter at

  • Allison Tait • August 25, 2014 at 1:36 am

    Oh, I completely relate to this! Good luck with the edits.

    • J. M. Levinton • August 25, 2014 at 2:04 am

      Thank you!

  • Deborah Brasket • August 25, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    I relate to this too. I finished the novel, sent it to two Beta’s as I was revising it. Incorporated their comments and suggestions, revised. Sent it to two more beta readers incorporated their feedback. Then I let it sit a month. The idea was that I’d read it through, maybe make a few more revisions, do the copyediting/proofing, then send it out to publishers/agents. But when I read it through after that month, I knew it still wasn’t ready. It was a horrible, sinking realization and I went into a full depressive state of despair: would it ever be ready???

    I’m revising again now, not just little bits, but adding scenes, cutting scenes, pumping up, whittling down, and I’ve got to say, I am SOOO glad I waited. It needed this. It’s a deeper and more nuanced version of itself, and I’m glad I waited.

    It’s worth it.

    • J. M. Levinton • August 25, 2014 at 7:32 pm

      It’s completely worth it. My writers group has been critiquing all along, so again, I thought it was done. But looking at it now, I know it will be even better. Taking the time away from the story is definitely something I’m going to factor into for future books.

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