Is It Ever Really Done?

At last the story is done. It may be five thousand words, or a hundred thousand, but it’s done. It started with a vague idea; or several story elements such as a character, a situation, an event, a setting, which have all come together; or a beginning from which I can see the whole story, or most of it, or enough of it to encourage me to start writing; or an ending, the goal toward which the story drives, and which might change by the time I get there. But somehow, out of this chaos of images and ideas and words, out of nothing, really, a whole and complete story has been created and written.

There are some stories which seem to come complete on the first draft. All that is needed now is some revision, editing, corrections, and a bit of polish. But that first draft is ninety five percent of the story or more. Planet Masters was like that.

More frequently, a story takes some time to grow and develop. Some research, a set of plot points, maps, a time chart, a sketch of several pages, a collection of unordered notes, maybe an outline. Some of my rough drafts were only a quarter the length of the finished novel.

For me, a rough draft is a text which has everything I wanted my story to have, in some form or another. A first draft is when everything has been put into a rough kind of prose, everything has been developed, and everything is in the right place. But it is nowhere near done, there will be a second, or a third draft.

Every story is different. Some are easy to write, some are painfully difficult. Some require only one or two or three drafts. Others may go through eight or fifteen drafts, and parts may be rewritten may more times than that. But because every story is different, there can be no one way to write it. I have had to learn not just how to write a story, but how a particular story must be written.

I know there are writers who have figured it out, and who have a method, or a routine, or a system that always seems to work. This is not a formula for a story, but a procedure for writing it. They can write a book a year, or two a year, and it works. But for me, every story is another challenge, another experiment, and it has taken me a long time to learn how to let each story come out on its own. I am still learning.

But eventually the story, long or short, is done, whether after one draft and a polish, or many drafts and revisions and changes in plot or character or setting or whatever. It is done, a narrative that goes from a beginning through a middle to an end. It feels done. And I’m happy with it. At last it is ready to be published.

At least it seems that way.