Since January, when my editor, Christopher Chambers, returned his critique of my book, I think I've worked harder on it than over the previous three years. I took out at least fifty pages, and wrote two new beginning chapters and a new ending. I've massaged awkward sentences, planted seeds of foreshadowing, eliminated repeated words, and checked the grammar twice using both Grammarly and ProWritingAid. I should have kept track; it seems I've read the book 100 times in the last seven months. And here I thought it was "finished" when I sent it to him last year!
Two weeks ago, I saved the final text as a .mobi file for Kindle and sent it to a friend in radio, the one who inspired me to write the novel. As she read it, I read along on my own Kindle. So much jumped out at me from looking at it through her eyes and on a different device. I made many corrections. Then I sent the fixed-up story to another radio friend and re-read it through his eyes over eight hours in one day, finding more errors, such as where I described the cover of a polka album from Stanley Pulaski as having people in lederhosen. Whoops! And then I noticed my character mowed the lawn between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not in Wisconsin.
So this week, I've spent three days reading it again and taking notes. Just counted the changes needed--223. How is that possible at this point? Some are as simple as removing a comma or changing tense, others more time-consuming, like a little research to see if my character could have heard a clap of thunder in late October. Otherwise, the story is perfect, the action flows, my characters grow, and the structure includes three acts, an inciting incident, plot points, pinch points, climax, and resolution. So it should be good to go.
How does an artist know when a painting is finished? When they can't stand to look at it anymore?