• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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That’s It I Quit I’m Moving On

There is a little clusterfuck of questions in the Ask Betsy that all circle around the same drain: when do you know it’s done? When the juices run clear. When the frog dies. When the ravens dance. When a beautiful woman gently touches your arm and takes your hand and you soundlessly climb a marble staircase and the wind picks up just so. You know you are done when you don’t look at it for a month, go back to it, read it out loud and don’t make a single mark. Or when the last page hisses out of the printer and you shove the manuscript in your saddle bag and take off through town on your palomino.. It’s done when the next thing you want to write gets noisy.  It’s done when your agent says so. When your editor says so. It done when you can’t take one more step. It’s done when you come.

How the hell do you know when it’s done?

44 Responses

  1. I LOVE this post. Yes to all of the above.

  2. I think it’s kind of funny when Betsy gives a bunch of answers to our (somebody’s) question, then turns it around and directs it back at us. To me her answers are enough.

  3. Uhhhhh, when you tell me, “It’s done.”

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. When I reach my word count and it makes me smile, I know I’m done.

  5. Affirmative on the word count and smile.

  6. It’s never done. It’s abandoned, it’s forsaken, it’s jettisoned, it’s put to rest for a while in publication someplace, it’s exhausted, it’s spurned, it’s enshrined, it’s recycled, it’s mounted pinned like a butterfly, it’s stapled in place and sutured with catgut, it’s thrown out with the fish-heads and banana peels, but it’s never done. It’s the Platonic Ideal Form of the bad penny and it keeps coming back, the recurring nightmare of the writerly life.

  7. When the check clears.

  8. When messing with it makes it worse–not better.

  9. I always think I’m done, as in through, and get a spike or a jump in ratings or sales and drag my exhausted self back to the keyboard. Did you ever read an ePub in Adobe’s digital editions? I just sampled mine there and it looks SO beautiful. I think I am hooked and it’s the needle this time.

  10. You know Betsy, it’s funny really, this post is what my columns are about.
    When I got my writing gig my editor wanted a title for the column and I could not come up with one. I mean really, how do you name six-hundred words about quirks and views. My daughter called, early morning, she never calls early morning, so I knew it was something serious.
    “I thought of a title for your column,” she said. This was serious. “How about ‘Enough Said’?”
    I loved it because saying what you want to say in six-hundred words about does it. Any more than that, it’s too much salt on your fries, too much frosting on your cake, a few too many Cosmo’s on a Saturday night. Like I said earlier up the line, when I reach my word count, if I’m smiling, then I’m done.
    I’ve posted another one of my columns on my blog. Read it or don’t read it. Does it need work, could it be better, of course, but to me it was done because along with saying enough is deadline. Now there’s an answer for you.
    Deadline, it’s done because it has to be.

    • Six hundred words is tough, Wry. It’s a single tack, while enjoying the ride. I get eleven hundred, less with dialogue. Sometimes I can get away with a two-parter, but not often. But six hundred words seems to me to require a tight/loose way of thinking, writing almost directly to the point- almost, but not quite. Too direct and you’re yelling; too loose and you’re out of space; when it’s there, everybody smiles.

      Your parents, by the way, are amazing, and your husband is smart. Seems like you have a lot of lumber in the basement, though.

    • I’m with you, Wry.

      And I like e name your daughter came up with. You’ve got me thinking, too. I just put up a post after a work thirsty summer. I may have to go back and count my words to see if you’re right.

  11. It’s done when someone publishes it and I see it in print. Until then, I tinker…

  12. I hope I’m about to find out . . .

  13. I ruined a novel once upon a time because I just kept at the bloody thing. I really tore its heart out, and now it’s lost on some old computer I loaned to my kids’ school for a play. Isn’t that ridiculous? But it was already gone. I worked for years on it (Jed Mattes represented it, only didn’t manage to get a contract). I guess for some reason it was doomed.

    Now I’m in a good mood!

  14. When I get to page 208. I outline first and obsessively, settle on a page count that is suitable for the topic, I write until I get to that last page, and then I’m done.

    • Isn’t that interesting. Page 208. I promise never to forget that should I ever become serious about writing.

      • Mac, not serious about writing ??? You are a hell of a writer. make it serious. Shut the kids in a closet, sit down and write… knowing that how you mistreat them now gives them foder for their own writing careers.
        This is from a stay at home mother who stepped back and put everything on hold just so they pick the best nursing home for me when it’s, my time.

      • Wait a minute…you were a-joshing me…huh.

  15. I liked this question. I agree with some of the earlier comments, in that if you are the writer, you feel like it’s never done until someone else says so. That’s when you have to stop yourself from obsessively changing things because it’s not in your hands anymore. I can always think of ways to adjust what I’ve written, but at some point, you have to let it go and see what happens.

  16. I’m the kind of gal that needs a deadline. Once I relinquish control of my hard copy, I’m done. Thank god for new beginnings. Without them I’m certain depression would hit, hard.

  17. It’s done in stages. When I write ‘the end’. when my agent says, well done. When an editor says this is the one. When a reader turns the last page and thinks ‘this was fun.” It’s done one by one.

  18. Done like the last drop of tequila.
    Done like the train running out of track.
    Done like an old pullet unable to plop out even a pigeon-size egg.
    Done like a 16 year old cherry.
    Done like the dinosaurs.
    And done like a casket.
    When it’s gone, it’s done. Until the next round.

  19. In that pause, when I watch their pupils dilate
    and hear a soft sigh of delight;
    the pages between us stroked with an admiring touch,
    emotions shift within me.
    My inner voice stops nagging
    to faintly whisper:
    it may be good enough.

  20. At this point, I may resort to asking the Magic 8 Ball.

  21. A Magic 8 Ball for writers…..hmmm……..

  22. Here’s to the done, and to life.
    The preparation thing was fun, and all, but a watched oven never cooks.
    Let’s fucking serve it up, already.

    If this is about your script, congratulations!

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