Read the draft with a critical eye (you will reread your book maybe fifty times by the time it’s ready; get over it).
What to look for:
1-Beginning: Does your story start right in the middle of a conflict? Don’t beat around the bush, engage the reader. What’s at stake? The reader needs a hook. You need to make them curious enough to read the first few pages and empathize with your characters. Notice, this does NOT need to be “THE” conflict, it could be “A” conflict, a sticky situation of some sort.
2-The middle: Every single scene and dialogue needs to move the story forward. The reader needs to learn something either about the plot or about a character. If the story does not move forward take the scene/chapter out! You will learn to recognize that slight itch in the back of your brain, that little voice telling you that maybe a chapter (or a paragraph) doesn’t need to be there. They don’t. Take them out, now. Like, now. I can almost hear you say, “But I really loved that sentence! That line was so funny…” Yes, but that does not justify the scene around it. Save the good lines for an awesome scene that won’t bore your readers to death. Now that you know what will stay in the story, make sure that every scene has a proper set up (the reader knows where we are, when, and who is there.)
Originally posted by 10mghydrocodone
4- Stranger than fiction? Yes, very possible. Most people base fiction on their personal experience, and that’s okay, but your fiction has to be believable. I’m not talking about aliens, vampires and superpowers, that’s all plausible. I’m talking about a character doing something you would never expect for no good reason. We accept reality as such, no matter how crazy, but readers are smart and can be very finicky with fiction. Rainbow Brite goes on a murder spree? I would love to read that book, but you’d better write it well. Surprises are good, but they need to be pulled out with style.
Every time you go through your manuscript you will see the Nobel prize shaping up, shedding a bit more cr*p. If you think your book is great and ready to go, start looking for a writers group to get some peer validation and critique.