Justine: Leaving Well Enough Alone

“The more we stur a tourde, the wours it will stynke.” So said J. Heywood in the 1546 Dialogue Prouerbes Eng. Tongue. How true is that? I have muddied around with the first several chapters of my book for MONTHS now, but as the Golden Heart deadline approached on Friday, I found myself having to follow the equally proverbial “fish or cut bait.”

In other words, I had to make whatever changes I could get done before the deadline, then send it off on its merry way. (I have few hopes of finaling, but I thought because it’s the last time RWA will hold the Golden Heart–the “Academy Awards” of romance writing for unpublished authors–I should give it a go.)

When I finished my submission, and in conjunction with my Word Of The Year (which is DEADLINES), I told my husband that I was not going to touch those first five chapters again. And he made me sign THIS:


So it’s moving forward, starting with Chapter 6 and going until it’s done and I turn it in to my editor.

Do you put a stake in the ground when it comes to your MS? Do you only allow a certain number of revisions to a given chapter?

6 thoughts on “Justine: Leaving Well Enough Alone

  1. I don’t limit revisions to a certain number of passes or a certain number of hours, but I do seem to have an internal timepiece, or maybe it’s a gong, that tells me when I’m finished. I revise multiple times as I go, so I don’t usually face huge rewrites at the end. But sometimes my revisions start to feel like I’m rearranging the deck chairs, and I have to come to grips with whether or not the changes I’m making are contributing to the manuscript.

    Good luck with the GH! I hope everybody wins.

  2. I tend to do a lot of revising when I’m starting a new work, fiddling with it over and over while I’m figuring out who the characters are. And then, like Kay, I hit a point where I feel, “Enough!” and I’m able to move on and be productive. And even then, I often have to go back and add setup material for things that come up later.

    I’ve even been known to toggle a single word to another word and back again multiple times (over multiple writing sessions) until I realize they’re interchangeable. Some days one sounds better, some days the other. Which is often what finally sparks that “enough” feeling.

    Your process is your process, but sometimes but sometimes you have to call a halt to obsessive behavior that isn’t moving you toward your goal.

    At least, I do.

    Good luck in the GH!

    • And that’s why my husband said to keep moving forward. “You’re never going to finish if you keep mucking around with the beginning.” And he’s right. But part of me feels that if the beginning isn’t right, the ending will suffer for it.

      To your point, I will probably have to go back and fix things once the ending is straightened up. I really want this thing ready to publish soon…I know I need to wait until March, when GH finalists are announced. But surely I can have it ready by July. 🙂 At least, that’s my hope.

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  4. (-: I think your husband is very supportive — writing a contract like this could be what you needed!

    I’m always reminded of the modern fable of the pots. The workshop separated the kids into two groups. One was told just to make a lot of pots, the other was told to refine, refine, refine and make the best pot possible. And, lo and behold, the group that made a lot of pots had the better pots.

    Although, in your case, I think you’ve been willing to make dozens and dozens of pots in the same pattern. From what I’ve seen, the shape of the words and paragraphs have differed dramatically. So, you’ve done the job. Finish this pot up, and then move on to the next challenge. Teacups, maybe? It’ll be fine!

    • What a great fable, Michaeline! I need to make pots (i.e., finish chapters, books, and keep moving on). I’m going to put pictures of pots all over my office now!

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