What does it mean to be “finished” a novel? Recently, I’ve had more and more people tell me they’ve finished their novel and now have to start editing it. This always makes me pause. I have two “finished” novels, but they need to be edited, so I see them as being nowhere near completed. A few years ago, I proudly thought of this benchmark as signifying finished, so I wondered what changed.
I think, perhaps, it’s that now I’m around published authors more. When they say a novel is finished, they mean they are drafting a query letter and beginning the process of getting published. They’ve put time in to, not only reaching the end of their story, but completely editing and revising that first draft until they have a “final” draft. I’ve come to understand this as a finished novel.
Still, I feel like actually writing a book start-to-finish is an accomplishment that should be proudly celebrated. I don’t want to take away the joy that comes from saying it’s finally finished, but I also don’t want to kid myself into thinking it really means there’s no work left to do.