When is a story done?

Patrik is back. This time he asks: how do you know when a story is finished?

I've written some stories in as little as a couple of days; I've worked on some stories for years. I wrote "Cloudberry Jam" in two days, and it required very little editing. The final version is very close to the first draft. As a contrast, "Mine-Wife" went through six or seven drafts and I was still not entirely sure it was done when I sent it in. Sometimes someone else will have to be the judge of that. Happily, they too thought it was finished. Right now I've got a story on the table that I'm trying to figure out if it's done or not.  

I spent many years having stories critiqued before I learned to kind of feel when they were done. My first stories were anecdotes, really. There was this thing and it was cool, the end. Then there were stories that were There was this thing and it was cool and then I have no idea what happens, the end, just take it out of my hands already. After a while, I learned to push through the "take it out of my hands already" and tweak and polish the thing. 

You read a lot, and you read your own texts a lot, and you write a lot. And at some point a certain skill to detect when a story is done arrives. That isn't to say it's flawless. I was born with very little patience and have many times turned in stories for critique that were kind of "there, I can't stand to see this text any longer, it's done", only to be told that it's not - in fact far from done.

Some criteria: does the text make sense all the way through? (from its own point of view. If it's nonlinear or chaotic, is it the nonlinear or chaotic it's supposed to be?) Is it fully realized? Can you read it from beginning to end and follow it, and be gripped, and understand (or not understand, if that's your point) the characters? In the end, I guess the only way to tell is if the story is close enough to the blueprint in your head. 

The answer: I don't think a story is ever done. It can always be tinkered with. You just have to make the decision that it's close enough.