Thursday, September 1, 2011

Is It Done Yet?

If only writing were as easy as the Rubik's Cube!

Yeah, you heard me right.

How in the world is something as left-brained as the Rubik's Cube easier than writing stories?

For one thing, you are certain when the Rubik's Cube is solved.  You know exactly when it's finished.  Like a pop-up thermometer for your Thanksgiving turkey, the Cube lets you know the moment it's done.  There's no such thing as good enough.  "I'll just leave these two corners unsolved" doesn't fly.

Take a look at your WIP (work in progress).  What about that story you threw in the drawer a year ago?  Are you finished with them?  How do you know?

With the Rubik's Cube, if you need to adjust a corner or flip an edge, it's pretty obvious what needs to be fixed.

It's not so obvious with your stories.

There is no solution manual for your stories.  Even if there were a manual, the solution would change whenever it's looked at like the crystals turning in a Kaleidoscope.  There is nothing quite as obvious as the Rubik's Cube to tell you when something is out of place or doesn't work in your story.

So how do you measure when your story is done?

Is it published?
Unfortunately, what may be considered polished and completed for one market or audience may not be so for others.

Are you, the author, satisfied?
Is this the best work you can produce today?  You may change your mind 6 months or 6 years from now.  But that's okay.

Are you exhausted?
Sometimes it is just healthier to move on to something else.  Your story is good enough.  Draft number two, or draft number eight.  It doesn't matter.  You're so weary of it you risk inadvertently 'fixing' something already working well.

I wish there was a magic solution pamphlet to let you know exactly when your story is completed, but that's just not to be.  Perhaps there is an omniscient professor of literature ready to oversee your story progress, but I have yet to discovered her.

Ink scribblings seem to be ever present on my pile of manuscripts.  I have no ideal end state like with the Rubik's Cube.  Stories are Kaleidoscopes because they are beautiful in their many different states.

What is lovely to one set of eyes may not be appealing to another.  What looks like crap today, will look genius tomorrow.

What about you?  How do you gauge when your stories are done?


  1. I guess that I have yet to experience that feeling of a "done story." Since I do not write short stories, I cannot provide a worthy opinion. I'm also still in the 1st draft stages of my novels, and they are nowhere near completion.

    Interesting post, Jason!

  2. Hi Mindi! I'm going to be bold and call you lucky. If you're on your first draft, then you at least know you're NOT done yet. :-)

  3. What an awesome post. This is my favorite line "Stories are Kaleidoscopes because they are beautiful in their many different states."

    It's good to know that someone else out there feels like I do about continually polishing ;)

  4. How kind of you to say that Elisabeth. Thank you!
    Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't be writing Choose-your-own-adventure stories instead, that way I wouldn't have to stress out about creating the perfect conflict or perfect ending. I could use them all. :-)