Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Agatha Christie, Feb 11, 2012.
Personally, I feel that only the bare minimum of words to describe your thoughts needs to end up in the book. Nobody cares for page-long wordy descriptions or irrelevant chapters. It sounds like you need more of the story, so try to develop some of the characters to have a subplot of their own, within the main body of the novel. Something that's different (like a romance subplot in a sci fi novel or some such) but still relates to the overall plot in some way.
if you've written "the basic" novel, go over it again and check if there is anything you have missed out on, things that might need more description or characters that need more development. I don't know how much we're talking about here, is it a couple 1000K or something like 20 or 30K missing for it to be complete?
Add more conflicts. If you simply try to fill in the existing story structure, the result will be as obvious as it is to every English teacher who specifed a minimum word count for an assignment.
If anything, a new writer should have excess words in the first draft, because the drafts of new writers invariably need more material removed than added in thr reviusion phase.
if it's way too short, add scenes, or subplots... don't just add words to your existing sentences, unless they're 'lean' to the point of starving the reader's ability to picture what's going on...
I don't know what you have in your story, but you could add in describing words, if you haven't already, but don't go over board. You can, like others have said, add in a side plot or two, so long as they fit with the story and can run smoothly along side what you already have. Romance is the easiest to add in as a subplot, but you could have anythings.
If it is a tightly written novel (or novella), then it's probably not possible just to insert a subplot here or and a complication there without doing some serious revision.
While print publishers may not be interested in a really short novel (novella or novelette), ebook publishers might be. If the story is the best it can be at the length it's at, maybe consider that path.
This is not necessarily true. Some writers (me, for example) work better by accumulation than by deletion.
I find that my first drafts are shorter than they should be because I'm writing too fast - charging through to get to the finish, and leaving some scenes just looking like sketches of what they should be. This is the main reason I revise as I go; I need to beef my scenes up, beef my paragraphs up, to get to the level of actual story instead of merely summary.
I don't like the idea of increasing the length of the story by adding subplots, extraneous conflicts, or any other unnecessary BS. Instead, deepen what you have, emphasize your theme. Make your story stronger, not just bigger. Otherwise it will just look like the same too-short story, only it's wrapped in a bunch of unnecessary packing material and frilly lace.
Adding words just to add words never produces desired results. Think of writing an essay for school: it's not long enough, so you rephrase things you've already said, add extraneous information. It's transparent and never increases the quality of the writing.
I tried adding to the plot of the first MS I wrote and at first the result was horrible. I took it out, added a subplot instead. Felt all right with the result, but the person I had read it thought my first, shorter story was much better.
So I'm not a fan of the idea. I'd say only add a subplot or extra conflict to your story if you find the story demands it.
thanks for your input
I agree. One of my novels grew about 10K in revision, mainly cause there was quite a bit missing that should've been there. (And I liked the later result considerably better.) Again, writing absolutes serve only to flush out exceptions.
I think if the OP feels their novel is too short, they need to see what is missing. I doubt it's likely to be their wordage as much as their story. I don't think conflicts should be "added" as much as fleshed out. Obviously, going without an example will yield limited advice. But it sounds like a case of needing to flesh out a story more, IMO.
Minstrel, what I have seen of new writers is that they invariably ad scenes that do not contribute to the story, redundancy and wordiness in description, a great deal of material that needs trimming. Few are guilty of not saying enough, and certainly not at the point they are wondering how to get their word count up.
I stand by my statement. Most less experienced writers should aim for a higher word count in their first draft, because if they do a good job of editing, they will remove more than they will add.
Even Stephen King says he plans on removing 10-20% from the first draft, although from what I see going to print, he should probably be cutting closer to 50%.
There's that name again. Everyone on this forum seems to worship Stephen King as some kind of writing god. Even you, Cogito, and even as you accuse him of writing overly-fatty novels at this stage of his career.
Stephen King isn't that good. I believe that, ten to twenty years after his death, he will be completely out of print. He'll go the way of the previous generation of bestselling writers like Alistair MacLean - very popular in his day, lots of movies based on his books, but out of print now. But writers like Conrad, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Huxley, Waugh, and many others are still in print many decades after their deaths because they were better writers. But nobody on this forum ever seems to cite them as sources of writing wisdom. It's pretty frustrating, sometimes.
Anyway, back on topic. You advocated adding more conflicts. My assumption is that the OP had already included the conflicts necessary for her story. Your suggestion sounded to me like you favored adding irrelevant and unnecessary material just to boost the word count. Wouldn't this, too, be obvious to all those English teachers you referred to, those who specified minimum word counts for assignments?
Conflict is nearly synonymous with plot. What I was trying to convey is adding setbacks, also known as reversals. These are ways of "making more story" in a legitimate way. Because that is what is needed, not more padding on the existing story. The alternative is accepoting that there is not enough story for a novel.
As for accusing me of worshipping King, that is nothing but a cheap shot. Please apologize.
I think Cogito's advice about adding conflict is sound, but not 100% of the time. As none of us have seen this actual book, it's pretty impossible to judge what exactly needs more wordage and what is complete as is. For all we know, the short novel might be fraught with conflict but missing characterization or description. Thus, I don't think anyone's advice should be discounted.
I think Stephen King is a good writer, but he isn't the supreme authority of all writing. His style and methods are different from authors like Amy Tan (who is one of his best friends) or Kurt Vonnegut or Ernest Hemingway, and all of these authors are no less admirable than King. King is only one writer with one method that happens to work for him. If I don't follow his advice, I'm not automatically a lesser writer because of it.
Now, addressing the question at hand...
OP: I think you should brainstorm for a while on what you have. Perhaps you wrote the draft without putting a lot of analysis into it, as I did with my first (very short) novella. Think through the characters a little more, ask yourself who changes and why, and do your utmost to emphasize these things. Sometimes, an extra scene actually does help you achieve more complete characterization. I found, for example, that I was missing an important conversation between my two characters as well as a scene that showed just how desperate my character became toward the end of the book.
Other than that, look and see if you have moments where you tell and you should be showing. Sometimes, telling takes a lot less words than showing, although sometimes the reverse is true. Be careful of getting bogged down on description, but put enough in so we know where we are and we can visualize it.
And of course, none of this advice is really all that good or creative because I can't know exactly what your book is lacking, if anything. Short of my schoolgirl essay augmentation tricks (e.g. using passive voice, writing out contractions, etc), I don't know what else to say.
Good luck with the rewrite. Hope it goes well.
I'm sorry for accusing you of worshipping King. My bad.
But his name does get tossed around here an awful lot as some kind of final authority, and it gets on my nerves sometimes.
Again, my apologies.
I think that this is not because people think that he's especially good, but because (1) he's successful and (2) he's written about writing, so people know what he thinks about it. Not that many well-known authors have published books about their own writing process.
In his book about writing, King himself has a scale of writers, from the hopelessly incapable of writing no matter how they try, through the people who can improve from mediocre to fairly good through effort, through the geniuses. He emphatically does _not_ classify himself among the geniuses.
On the topic of increasing length, add a few relatives. They're always rife with chaos and conflict, showing up at the oddest hours, eating all the food, etc. I can't be the only one with strange cousins?
Take every one of your female characters and rename them: Mary = Mary Beth.
Take every one of your towns, and put a "St." in front of its name.
Take every street name and make it a cul de sac.
Then duck really really fast before someone in this forum throws something at you for taking that crappy advice.
Then go reread the other suggestions, they're waaaaaaaay better.
Stories aren't about word count. It's not about how many words you have. It's what they say. Focus on writing a good story, and don't worry about the statistics of word count, chapter count, etc. Just write until the story is finished, and revise until you like the final product.
Now if you feel like you need more in the story, like more events, that's different. There's a difference between trying to add more events to a story than trying to boost up the number. Just don't worry about changing a number. It's wasted energy, imo.
Hmm... I always fall by the old adage to only say what needs to be said to tell the story. If you've told the story, and you like it, why do you want to add words to it? Anything you might add to it will make it a different story. What I would do is set this story aside, consider some of the ideas above, and recast the entire work as a different story. (Okay, you could call that a re-write, but I would take it a step further and try to approach it as a new work.) In this way you might keep the tone and pacing consistent, and the fresh approach could cure some of the overworked murkiness previously undeveloped additions might introduce.
I made a big mistake with this myself in January. After eight days and 27,000 words I had exhausted my plot but I hadn't met my goal, so I came up with another 33,000 on the fly. What else could I cram into the book? That was the wrong thing to do. I think if the first section had been left as a novella, the whole thing would have been better. It was a last ditch attempt and the two plots were tied together by this one guy who got away in the first section. That would be the other way to go, rather than fleshing out what's there. But I don't think either one is very good. I find it's best to come up with a plot and ignore the word count, tell your story and ignore the word count, then edit it and ignore the word count.
Trouble with that "ignore the word count" advice is that sometimes for publishing purposes you actually need to have a higher wordcount, depending on your situation. While the story itself should be priority, word count is a tool you can use to appropriately determine where you are.
However, it is up to your judgement (and the judgement of your publishers) to know when you need to write more and when you need to cut back or add. All the advice in the world can't make that choice for you. There are stories both over and undertold, and you have to judge for yourself which one your story is at highest risk of.
Besides, in books you can get away with a little higher word count. It's more important in visual mediums to get to the point, but when someone reads a novel, they want to enjoy the entire ride. The story should not hinge on your ending. Well, except a little in mystery, because that's pretty much inevitable in that genre anyway.
Read your draft over. Have someone read it and provide you with their opinion on it. Then you decide because if you have a good story, it will reveal itself within the words you have put down. But the idea of adding some more drama, sub-plots, etc., could work too. In the end it is up to your discretion but having others review it for you will provide insights from a different perspective and help you to understand how other readers will respond to your story. Stay true to yourself though, if you think it is enough, then it is...if not take into consideration the comments of the people you let read it.
Create another conflict for the character, or just extend one.... I've done that a couple times in one of my stories. I got to the end and realized that it wasn't as long as I'd like it to be. I went back to a scene where the main character kept experience wave after wave of bad things happening to him. I just added a few more waves, and it also led the story to a completely different ending that made me more content with it.
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