When is a project done?

I recently had a bit of a crisis of confidence in regards to my work.  While a large chunk of my 3rd draft is new and in need of extensive revisions, the first thirteen chapters have been written, revised, rewritten and revised again.  They’re pretty solid chapters.  But I still found things to change.

I’ve been working to publish for years, and I’m close enough I can almost taste it.  I would love to be able to finish this and move on to the next project, but I don’t want to wrap this up just for the sake of moving on.  This needs to be a good attempt, not just throwing it at the wall and hoping it sticks.

The question is: how will I know it’s ready?

I expect that every author has this crisis at some point, so I can’t believe I’m unique in this feeling.  But it’s hard to imagine Hemingway sitting at a typewriter and not knowing exactly what he was going to say.   That King or Clancy didn’t just write out a book and say ‘Done, what’s next,’ that they had to revise and consider and research.  I’m so used to the final product I have to remind myself each book starts with a simple idea.

In response to my own question, I don’t believe I will know it’s ready.  I could spend years revising and always find something wrong, something I want to work on, something to defer the next step again.  Maybe that’s why an editor is such an important part of the process, so that an author can take a step back and say ‘this is it.’

But for now, I still have a lot of work to do.