When Is Enough Enough?

I’m to the point now in my novel where the basic story is complete. I’ve written all the chapters to some degree. I have all the characters and plot elements in place, if not completely developed. I’ve reached a place where I am kind of tired of writing this story and would like a brief respite from it. I know that I have some more research ahead of me and that most of what remains is description of things I’m not entirely sure of yet. In addition, I am eager to revise some of my short stories and submit those. So, my question is, when do you know if you have enough?

Part of me thinks that there must be some benefit to taking a break now. I clearly want to. I need to do some reading and research, and I know that some distance will give me a fresh perspective on the writing. Another part of me knows, however, that there are sections that are severely underdeveloped which will make for a longer and harder revision; this could make me lose my momentum. Also, when I come back to it in 6 weeks I’ll be coming back as a visitor. I’ll have to remember and relearn things about these characters and the world they live in. I think this can be a good thing. That’s the point of taking time off before revising, but I’m not sure that the story is ready for that.

I’ve gone back and forth this past week between really wanting a break and seeing a more complete end in sight. So I sat down and figured out how many pages I have in each chapter. It turns out that some of the chapters are much more underdeveloped than I recalled. The essence is there; placeholders are present, but I’ve left a lot unsaid. So I’ve decided to come to a compromise with myself. I’ve gone through my calendar and designated an appropriate amount of time to each chapter. Chapter 1 needs at least 4 more pages. Chapter 2 needs 5, etc and so on until April 19th. I’m going to give it one last push and see where I end up. Hopefully, I will end up with a more complete story.

How do you decide when a first draft is complete? Do you use words or page counts as a guide? Do you step away when you are tired? Are you content with having a complete story even if aspects are underdeveloped still?

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