What to Add in Drafts
to Make Your Story Sell Better
by Victory Crayne
Ah, that sweet spot when you’ve completed the first draft of a new story. In your
excitement, you may want to show others your creation. After all, if you had so much fun
writing it, it MUST be good, right?
Hold it right there!
First drafts can always use some revisions and, in some cases, SERIOUS rewriting. You
wouldn’t want people to read your half-baked draft and think that it is your BEST work,
First, let your draft sit for a few days. You’ll ALWAYS come up with improvements that
you can’t see in the excitement of just finishing the first writing. Your first draft is to get
your intention about the story out. Your subsequent versions are to refine your execution
of the story.
Here are some ideas on what you can do in your subsequent drafts to “dress up” your
1. Add descriptions of your settings
to help the reader feel he/she is “in the scene” with
your characters. You may picture the scene in your mind, but unless you give your
readers enough clues about that scene, you won’t transport them into your story.
Avoid the “white room” syndrome. Use all of the senses, not just visual: smell, taste,
feel, sound, colors, shapes, etc.
Add enough clues to satisfy readers that this story fits the genre. Do this on
the first page or they may return the book to the shelves with “no sale” for you.
3. Add physical descriptions of your characters
Add just enough to help the reader feel they
are “in the presence” of each person. The first thing we do when we meet someone is
evaluate their gender, size, shape, hair, colors, clothing, etc. Introduce each character
so your reader feels they have met this person.
4. Add enough dialogue, action, and description to show their personalities
Stories are about people. Make your people come alive. For examples: (1) Jack
looked up and slammed his palm down on his desk. “Hey! Did you hear me?” Jack
was more effervescent, easily able to express his moods. He claimed it helped him
come up with more ideas outside of the box. At an even six feet, Jack was built lean
and wiry. He kept in shape with a three-mile jog almost every morning. (2) Don took
off his dark-rimmed glasses, frowned at them, and picked up a tissue. “You’re always
so darned eager to jump ahead.” He sighed as he wiped his lens.
5. Change how you relay some information by using dialogue instead of narrative
Readers love dialogue, the lifeblood of every story.
6. Show the emotions of your characters
Add facial expressions, body language, and perhaps some internal dialogue to show
the emotions of your characters. Dialogue is easy to write, but we humans learned to
show emotion on our faces and bodies long before we had language. Even babies do
it. If you appeal to the part of your reader’s brain that processes visual clues of
emotion, you’ll be adding depth to your characterization.
7. Add likes and dislikes for your characters
to endear them to readers. To discover what
that might be, ask yourself: My character wants ____ but is blocked by ____. For
John loves playing his piano in the evenings but is blocked by his
wife’s insistence on watching sitcoms so loud. She says she needs the break from her
stressful job as a commodities stock broker. Is it any wonder he drinks too much and
argues a lot? He hates himself for doing that, so he drinks even more.
Serena loves to garden but finds it hard to do when there is so much damned housework left.
8. Add author’s or character’s voice
to the settings, emotions, etc. This can be as simple
as an observation or a comparison, for example,
He kept expecting her to call him from the next room. Without her, the house seemed like an Egyptian museum
after hours--cold and lifeless.
He lifted one arm and took a sniff of his armpit. Who let a dead chipmunk in here?