Short First Draft? Not A Problem!

Ever worry your first draft is too short? Don't be. It may be that your story only needs 50,000 words to be told. It does depend on intended audience, genre and your own style.

A search for YA novel lengths online suggests that 50-55k is the low end of a YA manuscript. However, we're talking first drafts, and there are ways to pump up a word count and make your book even better than before.

Here's a neat, bullet point summary of what you can do to add to your word count:

  • Add new scenes
  • Expand on existing scenes
  • Develop your characters
  • Add description
  • World building
  • Conflict! 

Those six will certainly expand your word count.

Read through your draft and make notes on what scenes need expanding and which characters need developing. Add descriptions, too. Have you used all of your character's senses to describe a setting, for example? I have a tendency to forget about smell and taste. Descriptions add depth to your world and bolster your word count.

Do all your characters feel like well-rounded people? If not, start developing them. Give them motivations, give them strengths and weaknesses. Have them interact with each other. Make them do something. Don't let them just react to stuff that happens to them. Make sure they're active participants in your book.

Does the story lack some world building? This may be easier to tell after you've had a couple of beta readers take a look at your MS. It can be tricky to tell where your novel lacks detail because you know it so well in your mind that you might not realise it hasn't translated fully onto the page. If you're writing science-fiction or fantasy, you really need to develop the world you've created otherwise readers might not feel immersed in the story. Again, having other people read your MS will help you identify areas lacking in depth.

Where's the conflict in your book? I don't necessarily mean epic fights. Your characters should disagree and argue. Make sure something believable stands between your character and her goals, whether it's another character, a disaster of some kind, or even a great big fire-breathing dragon. No one wants to read a story where everything runs smoothly. If your plot's lacking tension, and everyone's getting on too well, add in the conflict. Your word count will thank you.

Taking time away from your MS after an initial read through is a brilliant way to come up with solutions to any problems. And, as always, run it by a few people and see how they feel. Never underestimate the help beta readers and critique partners offer.

Next week: LOOOOONG First Draft? Not A Problem!


  1. I always used to have issues with too-short drafts, and even now, my YA books tend to be under 70K. I usually needed to add and expand scenes and develop minor characters. I find my multiple-POV novels don't have the same problem, though I'm still guilty of skimming over descriptions.

    Those are some great tips! :)

    1. I skim, too. I frequently need other people to tell me "Um, you realise no one else really knows what this place looks like, right?"

      Thanks! I'm looking forward to sharing my "TRIM THAT WORDCOUNT DOWN!" post next week ^_^


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