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    How do you know when your story is done?

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    Jeremy Reimer
    Posts: 9310
    Posted on: 2019-09-17 22:58:38.000
    One of the most common questions new authors have is this: how they can be certain that their story is finished? By finished, I mean it needs no more major revisions, just a final scan for typos and grammatical errors. This is one of the hardest questions to answer, and it doesn’t get much easier with experience.

    It has been said that “art is never finished, only abandoned,” and this is true to some degree. You could keep polishing and tweaking forever and never really be happy. But there are a few questions you can ask yourself:

    • Does the story come full circle in a sense, but with the characters changed?
    • Does the story make a strong statement on its central thematic question?
    • Does the story end with some questions unanswered?

    Satisfying endings should echo the beginning, but prove that the characters are fundamentally changed in some way. Think of Lord of the Rings, when the hobbits return to Hobbiton. The place is pretty much the same, but they aren’t.

    Secondly, the story should have made a statement about its central theme. A theme isn’t just an idea or a setting, but a meaningful question about human existence. The Shawshank Redemption isn’t just a story about prisons. It asks: can an individual trapped in a corrupt system find justice and freedom? When it answers this question, the story is over.

    Lastly, a good story shouldn’t try and have all the answers. The ending of Inception deliberately leaves the viewer wondering if the main character is still dreaming. A little mystery in life isn’t just nice to have. It makes a story more impactful and lets it linger in the audience’s mind.

    Silicon Minds of Mars doesn’t literally end where it begins (it begins on Earth but ends on Mars!) but careful readers will notice certain echoes of the start of the novel. It definitely has a central theme-- what are the limits of political and personal control?— and it has an answer. But it doesn’t answer every single question the reader might have, about either Mars or the characters who live on the red planet.

    So I guess it’s finished. Now it’s time to prepare it for its journey into the world.


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