I worked on Healers for a very long time, and went through so many drafts that I stopped counting. Every time I went to bed thinking “this is the one,” I woke up the next morning and realized the work was far from over. When I finally recognized that there wasn’t much left for me to do without the help of others, I gave it to my reader friends and told them to have at it.
That moment, when I realized I had just submitted myself to an emotional public flagellation, was a major milestone. It’s nerve-wracking, especially if your first instinct is never “look at me, I’m so great.” My readers came back with comments and I breathed once more: they didn’t say “this sucks,” as I was sure they would, but they actually enjoyed it very much. And most importantly, the feedback they gave me was incredibly valuable because it opened up my eyes to many details that would have escaped me otherwise.
So I went through the book again, after each piece of feedback, and then again, because I ended up building on the feedback myself. But each time, there was a very clear, tangible improvement in the book. That’s always such a moment of wonder–just when you think it’s done and you have nothing left to give, you realize you’re still very far from reaching the limit of your creativity.
But there does comes a time when you have to say, “it’s done.” And that time is difficult to recognize and acknowledge. Because the truth is, the work is never done. You could spend a lifetime re-reading the book and finding things to change, language to edit, and details to fix. And even then, you will still find readers who aren’t quite pleased with the outcome. And then, it’s never done because the characters have already taken a life of their own, and they continue to live in your mind. You end up knowing them so well that you realize no book you can write will ever do them justice.
Finally setting a book free is an empowering thing. Because you’re making a conscious decision to let go of your insecurities–and boy, what a load of insecurities!–and let others enjoy the fruits of your labor, in the hope that most of them will say “Yeah, this book IS ready and I loved it. Where’s the next one?”