1. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    I'm having a problem with length.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alex_Hartman, May 20, 2008.

    I'm writing my first book. Just about everything is planned out and I'm trying to get the rough draft down, but I'm having the hardest time with lengthening everything. I've read so many books where there is a 100 pages of writing, but very little is happening. I know most of it is description, but when I try to do it, it is never ongoing like that. People have told me that I need to read more, but I'm reading all of the time and still not getting much from it. It's really discouraging and I haven't been getting very far in my story. Any ideas?

    -Alex
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Alex,

    "Lengthening" for the sake of padding with words will only weaken the final product. In my experience what one plans (outlines, plots out, etc.) does not always work out to exactly to what comes out length-wise on paper (or in word count). Some folks go shorter, and some longer.

    I would suggest that you write out the first draft, see where you're at. You're going to have to revise and edit probably more than once anyway. And I think as you write the first draft you'll learn as you go and the final chapters will be better written and a little more refined than the first chapters.

    Terry
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is why I usually caution people not to count words as if the word count is a goal. I’ve seen posts where prospective writers say things like, “I’ve gotten up to 60,000 words but I’m really hoping for 80,000 or 90,000.”

    The piece of work should be as long as it should be and no longer.

    Yes, yes, I know. “But I’m setting out to write a novel and the definition of a novel lies at least in part in its length.”

    This may be true, and although you may be trying to write a novel, your story may not be one. It may be a short story or a long story. If that’s what it is, trying to add stuffing to make it fill out the jacket of a novel is going to taste like a whole lot of stuffing and no meat.


    You feelin' me? :rolleyes:
     
  4. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    i completely get what you are saying. I don't have a length goal, but everything is so rushed. No matter what I do I can't expand on a moment. I can't add too much detail because that's annoying, but there can't be nothing either. I'm not trying to get it perfect, not yet anyway, but I have writen something that could be made a million times longer, not that it has to be, it just goes by way too fast. I just don't get how people do that.

    -Alex
     
  5. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    Why would you actually want to lengthen things? I've yet to hear anyone say 'wow, that book I just read was fantastic, because it was sooo long'.

    Take modern techno-thrillers for example, one of the reasons they are so high on page count, is because nobody ever 'picks up a gun from the desk drawer', they always 'pick up the Czeckoslovakian-made CZ-52 7.65x25 calibre high velocity semi-automatic with the rubberised combat grip option and blued steel slide with teflon frame upgrade to which the colimnating red dot laser sight was mounted, from the third drawer down of the exquisitely-inlaid Samuel Hogarth, antique Eighteenth century dresser.'

    Now that might be what wannabe secret agents and people obsessed with guns want to read, but it's completely unecessary detail as far as fast-paced narrative goes, and yet it is what many people want in a modern thriller all the same, and so it does have its place if done with care. However, the day it becomes true that Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, at 223 pages, it only a third as good as Vince Flynn's Consent to Kill because that has 609 pages, will be the day you have to start worrying about page count as a measure of quality. Of course another reason for length on complex books and epics is that they expand things into five acts rather than the traditional three, so if you haven't done that, it may also be part of the problem.

    Both sorts of book have their place, and they are both written to appeal to a specific audience, so in terms of hitting their target audience, one is neither better than the other as far a genre-fit goes. But the measure of their quality is nothing to do with how many pages they run to.

    If you can get through things quickly and it still reads well, that's actually quite an impressive skill; a typical magazine submission for a short story will be between 900 and 1,200 words, and that's not an easy thing to do if you want to get any sort of exposition and plot in. So maybe you ought to consider aiming to write short stories rather than novels if that is where you particular skill lies, and it is a skill, and a skill that not everyone has.

    Al
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Alex,

    I'm right with you, bro. I spoke from my own experience trying to stretch a beloved short story of mine into a longer piece of work and it just didn't work. (I actually have it currently posted in the short story section. Its called Two Bullets Left. Sorry for the plug!) I came to realize that my style is quick paced, short, and sometimes brutal in its impact.

    It's who I am as a writer as much as I might want to write the next The Stand.

    Look to your work, not that of other people to define who you are as a writer. Don't let the length freak you out so much.

    All the luck,
    Wrey
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the problems you say you're having do sound to me as if you haven't read long enough and/or enough of the right books, to 'absorb' what good writing looks/sounds/feels like... there's really no good alternative to reading, for learning how to write well, much as you might like to think there may be some easier/quicker way...

    what do you read, how much do you read, and how long have you been doing so?...
     
  8. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    You might just need time. I look back on my older writing and it's terribly sparse and spare. I recall when I was enthused to have finished a 75,000-word novel, when nowadays that would be quite short for anything I write. Now, some years later, I find that my style is wordier...IMO better, though not everybody would agree of course. I don't know how it happened. Just, over time, I came to describe things more, reside longer in characters' minds, etc. Maybe time is what you need to find a voice or style.

    Maybe you need to read some longer works--"The Stand" was mentioned and that is quite a long work :) --to see how other writers do it without padding.

    Or perhaps, like the others have said, it's simply not your style to write something long, or the story itself isn't meant to be a long one. I tried "padding" a story once with a subplot to make it longer and it just...ugh. Horrid horrid horrid failure. Nowadays I can rewrite something with more detail, but padding for padding's sake should be shunned. It sticks out like a sore thumb.

    I would just write the story as it's currently asking to be written and see how it turns out. If it's too fast paced, then maybe you can work on it or learn from it. But maybe you'll find that a fast pace is exactly what you were meant to write in the first place.
     
  9. Apples
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    Apples Member

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    Sorry to bump an old thread, but I had an interesting question:

    To those of you with no length problems, how many scenes does your novel have? How many chapters? If you want to get specific with word count, please, go right ahead.

    Thanks,
    Peter
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    while i don't know why you're asking, i have to say that i don't know any professional novelists who count scenes, though of course that's done in writing scripts for screen/tv/stage...

    and i don't see how that can really help anyone make any decisions regarding the structure/content of their novel...

    as far as chapters go, there's no set number or range that's better or worse than any other... each novel has its own needs and each writer has his/her own style... some have chapters as short as a single page and a variety of other sizes all in the same book and some writers like to be consistent...

    personally, i've never bothered keeping a comparative chapter count, any more than i've cared about how many scenes there are... word count has run from 85,000 up... i'd top mine out at around 120,000 max, for best chances of snagging a publisher...
     
  11. Samus Aran
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    Now, now, let's not get too testy. =P

    I think that is sometimes the problem with writers who plan out their entire novel, beginning to end, before they start writing. You get so excited to reveal the ending, you just want to get there!

    You could write the whole first draft as you are, whether it's short or not, just write it to the end and then add in some more description and stuff later.

    You could think of ideas for generating subplots that would add to the meat of the story.

    You could even think of a twist for your ending. As in, once you get to your planned ending, throw a twist in there and take it to a different direction.

    Good luck. Don't stress. :-D
     
  12. Apples
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    Apples Member

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    Mama, most of the stuff I've read on the internet says that scenes are simply "chunks" of the novel where something changes. The smallest unit of a story.

    The scene is the atom, to use an analogy, and the paragraphs, words and characters are subatomic particles. If that makes sense.
     
  13. jim90
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    jim90 Member

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    I usuallly set an ideal target otherwise i write only a few pages, plus i think it's about quality not quantity, i only wrote 40,000 and i would rather have that many and then pad it out a little than write 200,000 and bore the reader with repetative pointless description.
    (Though I do wish i could write 200,000, but i usually get bored of the same story first).
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    they are, and it does, ap... but you don't need to count the atoms, or have any minimum/maximum number of them, to build a workable whole... using your analogy, unlike the elements, the 'atomic number' of a story/novel doesn't determine the nature of the entity...

    the only medium it does affect is the script... whether for stage or screen, the number of scenes is relevant to the length and makeup of the play/movie... more so in live theater, since acts/scenes are the basic building blocks of a play... with screenplays, while there is a 'usual' range, and most are constructed on the three-act paradigm, there's a lot more leeway allowed in the number of scenes...
     
  15. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    I did plan out the whole thing...actually no, just most of it. It's driving me crazy because I've been working on the same story for two years and it's changed (for the better) so many times. I think it's hard when I'm a younger writer and really just getting into writing and my writing continues improving, there is a huge difference from the way I write now from my writing two years ago, and I'm never satisfied.

    I'll write a first draft, but by that time, I want to start it over again and change most of the plot.

    I have sort of come up with a subplot too, though I'm still trying to figure part of it out.

    And I really need a twist at my end. Now that I think about it, the ending is pretty predictable. I'm going to do something to it.

    Thank you very much =D
     

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