Question from a reader ... who wants to be anonymous!

How do you know when a story is finished?

Good question. There are two failures at opposite extremes of the scale. One is the story that is written and sent out in a white heat of creativity (I've been guilty of this one) and as a result is as rough edged as a new brick. Sometimes you can get away with this, but most of the time the story shows how little time it's been given to mature. Key features of the too freshly written story will be:

1. Overuse of the characters names (Keith said, Claire said, Keith replied, Claire ran, Keith smile, Claire laughed etc instead of he and she).

2. Overuse of key words or phrases (the Labrador will be mentioned ten times when eight of them could have become dog, pup, hound, animal, the dog's proper name etc. The bowie knife will feature in every other paragraph when it could have become just knife, blade, weapon etc).

3. A rushed ending.

The other is the story that keeps getting polished and never gets sent. I've read some of these, and they are gorgeous pieces of work, but the writer just can't let them go.

The solution to both problems is to workshop your story. Ask readers and reviewers if they think the story is ready for publication. Of course you don't have to listen to everything they say, but if most people say it is, (or isn't) you're being given a strong hint about your work.