A story is finished when it is published. Otherwise, it is never finished. The more one writes, the more one learns, and the more one learns, the more one sees how earlier works can be improved. The only thing that stops this cycle of learning and rewriting is getting the book published.
Here are some ways other authors decide when they are finished writing a story. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .
From an interview with Louis Bertrand Shalako, Author of ‘Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery’
When I can find vast stretches with no errors, no grammar problems, no spelling mistakes, it’s finished. When I can think of nothing to add, or nothing to object to, no problems with the logical flow, and when I am convinced there is nothing more I can do to make it a better story, then it’s done. The funny thing is, there will always be doubts, and there will always be some insecurity. That’s just what it means to be a writer.
From an interview with Benjamin Cheah, author of Eventual Revolutions
When there are no more changes to make, no corrections to be done, and when the entire story flows seamlessly.
From an interview with Cynthia Vespia, author of “Demon Hunter: Saga”
The story decides for you. You let it run its course. The best endings are those that surprise you as the writer.
From an interview with Meg Mims, Author of “Double Crossing”
That’s a tough question, because I can’t just hammer it out. I prefer letting it “heat up” like in glassblowing, fine-tuning, rolling, even breaking it up and starting over. And the “KEY” element must be there or else it will remain unfinished for me. So while Double Crossing finaled in many RWA contests, it took over a year for me to find that “key” that let all the elements fall into place and then I knew it was submission-ready.
From an interview with Michael Haskins, Author of “Stairway to the Bottom”
I know the beginning, middle and end of a story before I begin. How I get to the middle and end is the fun part. As I write the things I knew or wanted in the story sometimes change, including the end. In Stairway to the Bottom, I didn’t like the ending and added one more chapter. I hadn’t totally thought of that way on ending the story, but as I re-read it, I knew it need a little more than I planned on. I think the ending found me.
From an interview with Tom Winton, Author of “Beyond Nostalgia”
You never finish a story, you abandon it. No matter how many drafts you do, eventually you have to let it go. I did nine drafts of Beyond Nostalgia and sometimes, during that ninth draft, I’d spend a full hour reworking a single paragraph that I’d overhauled eight times before. A writer can go over and over a manuscript forever and keep making changes. When you’re confident that you’ve given it ninety-nine percent, ya gotta let it go.
So, how (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?
(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire and follow the instruction.)