When Do you Know that Your Book is Finished? Questions about A Good and Perfect Gift Part Three

When Do you Know that Your Book is Finished? Questions about A Good and Perfect Gift Part Three July 13, 2011

I know the book is finished when the final deadline rolls around. Which, in this case, is TODAY!

My first deadline for A Good and Perfect Gift was last December. I spent the week after Christmas reading the entire manuscript out loud, listening for words that were repeated too often, sentences whose rhythm was off, and any minor changes that needed to occur.

A few weeks later, my editor wrote to say that no “substantial” edits were needed (which was quite a relief because I was just about to have a baby and I couldn’t have made any substantial changes even if they had been crucial). Then, in early March, I received an email from my editor with his “line edits.” He asked me to clarify a few points, and he noted that I am a rather “comma-happy” writer. So I worked on it all again through the month of April. I made many more changes than my editor required, and I tried to clean up the commas.

In early June, I received a paper version of the document, and I had five days to make any changes by hand. Then, last Thursday, the final paper version arrived–type-set as it will be in its final form. I’m supposed to proofread. Theoretically, all I’m looking for are typos or misplaced punctuation marks. I’ve only found two of those, but I’m also discovering little things I’d like to change, like the page where I “shake my head” twice within the span of two paragraphs, or that I twice described someone in my family as having their hair “swept” into a ponytail, or the paragraph on page 126 that includes the word “away” two times in a row.

One way or another, I will deposit it with UPS today, and someone at Bethany will make these minor final changes, and then it will go to the printer. For me, as of today, the book is finished, and I’m pleased with it. But I’m sure when I get my copy of it in late August, I’ll find one or two teeny tiny things that I would do a little differently. It makes me think of the Amish custom of intentionally doing one stitch incorrectly in a garment, just as a reminder that as human beings, we never complete things perfectly. It’s a good reminder that I will never get it exactly right, that there will always be room to grow, and that even our imperfect efforts are sometimes good enough.

Note: I just received a comment from a reader and the Amish story is apocryphal! According to this reader, who has many Amish friends, “the Amish never intentionally put in a mistake and believe it would be so wrong for them to assume it was “perfect” without that intentionality. They have no idea where that rumor about them started.” So I stand corrected, and I like this version of the story even better. None of my mistakes are intentional, and yet they are present as reminders that I am very human and very grateful for God’s grace!

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