Finishing (...and Why Adverbs Are Like Whiskey)

Indie authors relish the control they have over their books. We are the final word on the cover and the contents. But there are a couple downsides to being your own final word. First, you might think you're finished when you're not. Second, you might never finish...

Lately I revisited my first book. I tried to restrain myself to simply reading it, but I could not resist another light editing touch. Why? I'd like to say it was just because I needed to ensure little consistencies with the sequel. The truth, though, is that as my writing improves, I see pieces of my earlier work that could be better.



Here's an example: adverbs. I caught a few on my re-read that made me wince. You see, adverbs are like whiskey. Not a smooth, century-aged-in-oak whiskey. More like moonshine whiskey. It burns as it goes down, but after a few sips, you begin growing numb to it. Put the whiskey (or the manuscript) down for a while, and the burn will be there waiting for you next time. I'm pleased to report that I've pruned these suckers away. It went like this:

"Get out of my book," I told the adverb.

"Never," the adverb said ominously.

Then I deleted "ominously," and everyone lived happily ever after.

Now my debut novel is finished. Seriously, finished. How do I know I'm done? It's not enough to say so in a blog. Anne Lamott put it best: "You've gone over and over something so many times, and you've weeded and pruned and rewritten, and the person who reads your work has given you great suggestions that you have mostly taken -- and then finally something inside you just says it's time to get on to the next thing. Of course, there will always be more you can do, but you have to remind yourself that perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor."

Somewhere between whiskey and perfectionism, I finished my first novel. 

Make your words count -- J.B.