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  1. Jak of Hearts

    Jak of Hearts Member

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    Do you ever feel like its too short?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jak of Hearts, Feb 10, 2014.

    Hey everyone,

    I am in the midst of finishing revising my first novel. I don't know if this is just me being paranoid or not, but after revising it I feel that the novel is too short. I have an ensemble cast of 5 protagonists that are all featured evenly. I feel that throughout the story their characters change as they need to to become who they are supposed to be at the end. The problem is that I feel the book doesn't have enough middle to it. I feel like even though they are changing throughout the story, the change feels like it is happening too fast. Because there are five characters I feel like the book doesn't spend enough time on each specific character but I'm afraid to just start writing in new scenes for the hell of it when they may not have much to do with the story other than I need to fill space. I would appreciate any ideas, feedback, or experiences from writers that have faced similar challenges. What do I do in this situation, how do I know if its just me or if the book really does need more space in the middle.
     
  2. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Do their goals come too easy?
     
  3. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

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    Make them struggle to get what they're after.
    On a side-note: how long is the novel? (as in number of words)
     
  4. Jak of Hearts

    Jak of Hearts Member

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    The novel is running about 90,000 words. However the first 20,000 is in introductory chapters to introduce the five main characters. I hadn't really thought about their goals being reached too easily but perhaps that is my problem.
     
  5. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    90,000 words is right in the middle of the range publishers prefer for first-time novelists. So you're good as far as the length is concerned.
     
  6. Jak of Hearts

    Jak of Hearts Member

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    I'm not so much worried about its length, just that the substance and action of the story isn't drawn out enough. Like I said, the characters all develope exactly as they should and I'm happy with that, I just wish character could get more page time. I'm working with some POV strategies right now to enhance that after doing some research last night.
     
  7. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    Is there something you're trying to say with/about any of your characters that isn't coming across at the moment? If so, you probably need more scenes.

    I admit having 5 main characters across 90,000 words doesn't feel like it leaves much room for subtle development of each, but that's not to say it can't be done. The problem is, as the author you're not really best placed to work this stuff out - you already know what you're trying to say, so it's going to be obvious to you. I'd suggest giving it to some beta readers and ask specifically about this once they've given you their general thoughts. Don't mention it before they start reading, or you'll just introduce bias.
     
  8. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the first novel i wrote came in at only about 75k after the first edit, so i went back and expanded some of the scenes to bring it up closer to 100... wasn't all that hard to do...
     
  9. Jak of Hearts

    Jak of Hearts Member

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    Thank you all for the input. Perhaps I'll set the problem aside until the beta readers get done. I half wonder if I'm just over worrying something that isnt really there, but i can't help but dwell.
     
  10. TLK

    TLK Active Member

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    Is this thread a euphemism?

    If so, no problems here, just saying...
     
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  11. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If all you're doing in those chapters is introducing characters, that could be a problem (although not the one that led you to start this thread). You want to draw the reader in, so it's good to start with one of your characters in a dilemma/problem/conflict/decision point. Introduce your characters as you go. A really good example of this is Rachel Simon's The Story of Beautiful Girl. It starts with a young girl being taken away from a farmhouse in a car. Then we learn that the widow who lives there has promised to hide a baby. Who's the girl? What baby?! Why?? What's going on?? You keep reading and your questions are answered.

    Good luck.
     
  12. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

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    LOL! I was asking myself the same thing ... :rolleyes:
     
  13. Jak of Hearts

    Jak of Hearts Member

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    Well the first chapters are introductory, but each one sets up the challenges that each character has and will eventually overcome. I feel they are necessary because the novel isn't one character, it's five characters each with their own development. Perhaps that is something I should discuss more thoroughly or see how it goes in beta reading.
     
  14. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It's not a matter of how many characters. My point is that you want to begin with them already immersed in some problem or conflict, so that the reader will have a reason to care.
     
  15. criticalsexualmass

    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    What edfromny is getting at is that the reader doesn't owe us (the writers) the duty to stick through that first 20k words to get to something interesting. We have to MAKE them stay with us. If it's all explanations of what the person is and isn't interesting, they will move on. I refer to this as the "star wars" theory. Start the story with a big space battle and shit blowing up and people will sit through lousy wording and clunky plots because they are hooked
     
  16. criticalsexualmass

    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    Oh, and i left out the obvious double entendre jokes about the title of this thread. You're welcome. ;)
     
  17. hippocampus

    hippocampus Active Member

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    Would you mind expanding on THIS? o_O

    Did you perhaps add more of the senses (such as sight, sound, smell, taste, etc.)? Or did you describe the scenery more? Or insert more dialogue? Or perhaps it just varied from scene to scene?

    Because I'm dealing with this right now. I don't want to add in any new scenes if they're just space fillers. But I'm having a hard time expanding significantly enough to give me another 25K words.
     
  18. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can't speak for Maia, but I often find myself expanding scenes. Usually it means getting deeper into a character's head: adding a paragraph or two here and there about what he's thinking and why. I'll add detail to the actions of characters. For example, take a scene in which a man is visiting a former lover he hasn't seen in years, and she serves him a cup of coffee. In my first draft, she'll just hand him the cup. But on revision, I might want to give a hint to the reader about her emotional state, so perhaps her hands are shaking as she pours the coffee and she spills some. She might curse under her breath about that before wiping the mess up with a napkin and giving him the cup. I'll have the man thinking about what this means about her - is she still angry with him after all these years? Is she trying to pretend a confidence and independence she didn't have when they were together, and she thinks she just blew it by spilling the coffee? Are her hands shaking because she's been drinking too much and is trying to hide it?

    Something that was one line in the first draft might turn into a page in the second, because I'm building more into the scene.

    That's just an example of one of many, many ways a writer can expand a manuscript without padding and without adding extra scenes. Deepen the scenes you already have.
     
  19. Jak of Hearts

    Jak of Hearts Member

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    I have a question for you guys then. As a novice writer I am always more than happy to listen to the advice of those more experienced. Is having introductory chapters alone a concept that is something to stray away from? Or if each of them has that "Star Wars" entrance to their own chapter then is it still ok? I'll go ahead and expand a bit and give an example: All of the characters come together in chapter 7 as a group and eventually help each other overcome their own issues as well as the larger conflict in the story. One character's introductory chapter starts off with her running through the woods being chased by a barbarian assassin, she eventually eludes him by being swept down a raging river and ends up on a boat as a stowaway. Her conflict is set up in her introductory instead of them meeting and her being like "Oh, by the way, I'm being hunted by an assassin." I am actually looking for help so if this is still something that sounds bad then please help guide me into an alternative.
     
  20. Rafiki

    Rafiki Active Member

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    I wouldn't worry too much about the length, just ask yourself the question: is the piece long enough for you? Are you satisfied with it? Try not to adhere to some artificial standard set by "The Establishment"- man - just focus on making the best piece you can.

    I know this doesn't help if you're trying to get published, but trust me when I say that adding fluff will only dilute the quality of your work. If you want to elongate the piece then add a subplot or two, but always keep in mind the central conflict and make certain nothing gets in its way.
     
  21. criticalsexualmass

    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    word counts are there for a market. If this is your first novel length work, it's fair to ask "is this marketable?" If so, worry about your word count. But tell the story the way it has to be, regardless of word count. If somebody actually buys it, let THEM tell you where the word count needs to be. It's possible this would sell better as a novella, and you will have to go back and remove all the extraneous verbage you are worried about adding. That might make it a better story or it might just be extra work.

    My publishing credits are limited to local and state-wide works, so I'm far from a damned expert. But I always let the story flow, then edit to my buyer's/bosses/reader's needs. If you don't have buyers, bosses, or readers for your writing, stop worrying about it. Let the story be the boss, and when it feels right go to market
     
  22. Rafiki

    Rafiki Active Member

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    This guys smurt.
     
  23. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I don't count as an experienced writer; I'm speaking primarily as a reader. And as a reader, it strikes me as risky. It's good that you're not starting with your example character waking up, brushing her hair, and making herself a bowl of oatmeal. But all the same, shifting between five characters seems like a very, very fancy balancing act, especially since you see yourself as a novice writer.

    George R. R. Martin kept me halfheartedly watching that kind of balancing act for the first three books of Game of Thrones, and then he lost me, and he's not a novice. I just couldn't stay interested in the little bites of each person's story; eventually the accumulated damage of repeatedly detaching from one and attaching to another wasn't supportable.
     
  24. JayG

    JayG Banned Contributor

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    So there are five characters. So what? Why must each of them have their own story? The reader isn't with you to become friends with your characters and study their history. They're not interested in an in depth character analysis, they want raw meat, because they're with you to be entertained. Look at Edger Rice Burroughs. He would take a group of people and get them into a great deal of trouble—trouble so bad that there, obviously, was no way for them to survive. He'd abandon that group and get group B into trouble, just as disastrous. Then he's abandon them and rescue group A, only to place them into even more danger before switching back to group B, and... The man made a lot of money that way.

    His stories were exciting because the characters were facing problems that had to be faced right now, and the reader was placed into the middle of the action, as a character who was observing and making the same decisions, based on the factors and resources the protagonist was. And those problems couldn't be ignored, had a tight time limit, and strong consequences were they not solved. Is that what your characters are doing? Are your readers beinginformed or entertained?

    At its heart any story is about someone who wants something and can't have it. They need it so badly they can't focus on anything else. If there are subplots they're just that subplots, and relate to the primary problem in some way. If they don't—if the subplot is simply a story in parallel with the primary problem, every word you spend on it will be resented by the reader because they want to hear about what matters to the plot, the protagonist's character building, and what's happening, not what happened.

    Films may have a large and distinguished supporting cast, but they're called a supporting cast for a reason. That same thing applies to fiction for the printed word.
     
  25. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...it varied... i just added whatever it made good writing sense to add, wherever it made good writing sense to do so...
     

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