Monday, June 27, 2011

The Long And Short of It - Part Two

Last time we covered, how to shorten your novel if it is too long. This time we’ll go through the opposite. What to do if your novel needs to be lengthened.

This past week, I finished the first draft of my WIP and was shocked to discover the final word count was a scanty 65’000 words! My goal was 85’000. All I could think was, “Well it’s only a first draft and there’s about a zillion more drafts to go before I can call it done.” But I was still left with what author Jody Hedlund calls, “hard core writer fear” that I would never get to my desired word count. Or worse yet, what I added would be irrelevant to the plot, and that necessary additions would forgotten. However, if I utilize the tips I am going to share with you, I may, after hours and days of work, end up with a finished product that meets my original goal.

Ideas To Lengthen Your Novel

1) Add More Description:
The first rule of writing description; don’t add it just for description’s sake. No reader wants to read page after page of irrelevant details. But there might be areas where your novel could use more description of scenery and character depth. Both of these can be used to compel the reader deeper into the story.

2) Give A Minor Character More Action:
Right now in my novel there are two secondary characters who’s roles I want to deepen and to put it simply, “give them more screen time.” Both of these characters have more that they’re begging to say. Giving them each a few more well written scenes will add depth to both them, and my main characters. This may be true of your novel as well.

3) Add More Depth To A Subplot:
Again, something for me to work on. A subplot is of course an extension of the main plot. Adding to subplots might add a whole new layer to your story, and better tie in to your main plot. These subplots might also be able to add more depth to minor character’s, thus to use a cliché; kill two birds with one stone.

 4) Further Explore Your Main Character’s Thought Life:
I admire authors who’s characters can think deeply for several pages and at the end the reader better understands the soul of the character. My character’s typically have difficulty doing this. They think for a few sentences, than get back to the action. However, they’re defiantly not shallow people and deserve more time to voice their thoughts. Maybe your characters do too.

5) Make Sure To Show - Not Tell:
We’ve all made this mistake and rewriting these scenes can change that. Also, there are places where we switch from scene to scene leaving gaps in time. Filling in those gaps, as long as they pull the story forward, can be useful.

For unpublished novelists, word count can be a problem. Sometimes it just can’t be fixed. Maybe no matter how hard you’ve tried, your story still doesn’t meet publishing standards. This doesn’t mean your novel will never get published, but it does mean that for your novel to sell it must be extremely well written. Agents and editors value a well written and compelling story, more than word count.

Usually, word counts are too lengthy and need to be shortened. Most writers have a tendency to write to much because, after all, we’re writers and we enjoy writing! But in today’s market, plus the fast paced world we live in, readers and publishers want a novel this is “tight” - where every word counts. However, you may be a fast paced writer like myself and have the opposite problem. In that case you may need to slow down with your work and expand it to give your reader a more engaging read.

A fully developed plot, engaging characters and well written descriptions lead to a work that is a publishers dream and a readers delight. “The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing” by the Editors of Writers Digest is a book I purchased recently at a writing conference. I have turned to it for help many times in the writing process. This resource may also be of help to you in your writing journey.

Happy Writing…….

Your turn. What tips do you have to share regarding length in novels? Have you ever struggled with this dilemma?

1 comment :

Richard said...

All of that will work, but 20,000 words is quite a few to make up.