Not Perfect? Don't Panic!

Not perfect? Don't panic! You have just finished the first draft of your novel. You like it! You are happy with it. Your friends read it and they love it! You are on a bit of a high from the excitement of completing your work. Then you start reading "the rules". Oh dear. Rules, rules, rules, rules, rules. Like... don't use these words, don't use these phrases, your beginning is not punchy enough, your characters are not different enough, your story line has been done before, etc. Unfortunately most of these rules are good and have become rules for good reason. I repeat... Don't panic!  You have taken the time to write a book, take the time to edit the living daylights out of it. Make the changes! Research lists of words that should be rarely used, do a search through your novel on each "banned" word, and either eliminate or change these words. For example, "His eyes widened with surprise." is a problem because "with surprise" is redundant. Just "His eyes widened." is enough. Obviously its with surprise unless he's peeling onions or someone kneed him in the groin. If your beginning is not immediately engaging, rewrite it. Do the first chapters over if necessary. I find once a book is finished it's always a good idea to redo the first chapter/chapters. Your characters are not interesting enough. Have you given them any interesting traits? Quirky behavioural issues? Nasty psychological issues? Humour? Darkness? Frivolity? Review and fortify your characters, it's worth the time! Your story line has been done before. This is a a bit more difficult. This is okay if your characters are engaging and the story is well told. A gazillion romance novels tell how girl loves boy and one betrays the other or something goes wrong, then they either sort it out or try to kill each other. And people keep on reading them! Another gazillion fantasy novels tell the story of a gifted or magical individual who needs to save the world from and evil magical adversary. With this in mind, your story still needs to be different enough to interest the reader. Repeating an appealing theme is quite different from rewriting a story in your own words. Persevere. Its worth it. If you send your book for a critique, listen to all suggestions; remember you had the book critiqued for a reason, so be humble and consider all suggestions. And again, you put the time and effort into writing the book, it's worth the time to revise it until it rocks!

Dan O'Sullivan, The Fallen, The Guardians, Child of a Guardian and of the Free
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