A Work of Art is Never Finished...
There is a saying, 'a work of art is never finished, just abandoned'.
I have to admit I've heard it many times over the last two years, but never really understood it until today. If you've read the book I currently have published on this site, you might, like I did, believe it to be finished.
I thought it was (albeit still with a tiny requirement for finding and fixing typos), but it isn't.
To say this properly, I should probably add that this is the second time I have written this book. The original was my first ever successful completion of an idea. I have tried to write many books over the years and never managed to get all the way through.
The first iteration of this book had a different title, even a different story line and, once again, when I hit the publish button, I thought it was finished. I was very, very wrong.
In December 2017 I read through that first attempt and cringed at my poor formatting, flimsy motivations and over complicated stories. In hindsight it was a mess and the pride I'd felt at 'finishing' it disappeared like morning mist.
So I started to re-write. I had a few simple ideas of how to make it better and I thought I'd have it done in a month or so. I was wrong again. In November 2018 I uploaded the chapters onto this site. I was still editing and fixing mistakes, but I felt like it was close to being finished. I thought I'd get feedback I could use to tweak it slightly, make it better, more satisfying overall. I haven't had that. There have been nice comments and it's thoroughly rewarding to know people are actually enjoying what I've written, but it's not helpful.
So I starting reading my own words again. Out loud this time.
How far this book is from finished has genuinely shocked me. There are plot holes, characters who act and speak contrary to the way they should. The story isn't strong enough. It ends in a limp cliff hanger that robs the ending of its strength.
I'm assuming you've heard people say you are your harshest critic. Good. That's what I need to be.
I've been editing the chapters (again). This time keeping the overall story arcs in place, but playing with the scenes and dialogue to make them stand up better under my own scrutiny. It's hard and I've been doing it all with the same general background feeling that I'm just tidying up an otherwise finished product.
This morning, after completing rewriting two scenes that deliver (I feel) a much more realistic reaction to certain events in the story, I realised this will never really be finished.
And now the second part of that phrase starts to make sense. I cannot write the best book ever written. I can't write the best sci-fi story the world has ever seen. Not yet anyway. All I can do is write the best book I can write and that 'finished' article is still a long way from being ready.
So I have to accept there will be a point where I have two choices: keep going over what I've done, keep making changes and tweaks and adjustments and keep what I write to myself forever.
I find a point where I'm ready to abandon it. That doesn't mean throw it away, it means, I now understand, let it be. Let it go and allow that part of the world that wants to read my words make their own opinion of it. It's going to be difficult, I have no illusions about that, but I think it will be worth the hassel. Aftter all, the only way I can write a better book next time is to let people tell me what I've done wrong with this one.
So, I will keep tampering for now. I will keep making it better until I know the changes I make are no longer of consequence.
I will write the best book I can and then, I will abandon it.