Write It–5 Tips for Rebuilding the Fantasy Novel

Reflection Moi

 

At a writing conference recently, an instructor told authors about a practice that involves cutting out 30 percent of a novel. This practice works for authors who overwrite, use too many filler words, include too much exposition, and dialogues that don’t propel the story forward. However, what happens for authors who underwrite and fall short of the genre word count?

When I revised my novel Enter 5D, I came up short 10,000 words. This started the wheels of my mind to churn ideas of ways to add more content to this fantasy novel. Here are five tips.

1. Add action and description to long dialogue or paraphrase the dialogue in chunks instead of as single sentences of direct speech.

I have been reading Sarah Addison Allen’s Lost Lake and this author uses this practice throughout her novel. She also includes different points of view while including pieces of backstory for several characters. Some experts in the industry advise against several points of view in a novel, but this is also my style with writing novels.

2. Spread chunks of exposition on the characters and even the setting or place throughout the novel while still moving the story forward.

Again, read Allen’s Lost Lake or her other titles for a good example of how this is achieved.

3. Spread the plot out by adding new twists or suspense. Keep the readers with a question in their minds for more chapters.

4. Add new characters for the protagonists to respond to but only if this doesn’t block the progress of the story.

5. Lengthen an important scene by highlighting the characters’ hopes and wishes or by them ruminating on their greatest fear.

The trick is not to pad the novel with unessential material. Also, use discernment when adding more words or pages to a novel. While many publishers have a minimum and a maximum word count, if a novel feels complete at 70,000 words or 75,000 words, adding more material might destroy its flow and deter readers with a short attention span (which is many readers including me).

I hope these and other tips on Belle Author are helpful for you as you craft your novel. I have been writing novels since 2005 and I’ve learned from pitfalls along the way. I never earned a Master’s degree in creative writing and I didn’t earn a BA in English.

However, I have received compliments from professional editors who have encouraged me to keep writing novels. Obviously, there is no shortcut to writing and publishing a novel. And even some of the novels that have been published were done so prematurely while many great stories have yet to become published books.

 

 

5 Must-Have Tools I Acquired at a Writers Conference

John Williams Waterhouse “Pandora”

I returned from the Write on the Sound conference held at the Frances Anderson Center in Edmonds, Washington. The conference attracts around 250 to 300 writers in all stages of their careers and representing a variety of genres. Although most of the writers I met were working on their memoirs.

On Friday, participants sign up for a half-day or a full-day workshop. I signed up for the half-day Think Like a Development Editor workshop taught by Shirin Bridges. I gained insight from that workshop and much of what the instructor-editor shared with us was repeated by other instructors throughout the conference.

On Saturday we attended 4 workshops from blocks of 4 workshops (it was hard to choose in some cases). We also were invited to the keynote speaker event featuring Retired UW Professor Charles Johnson. And the conference hosted a reception or the authors teaching at the event. A private group hosted an open mic in a cafe. I didn’t attend the open mic because I had too much information to digest from the day’s events.

On Sunday, my first workshop started at 9:30 and by the last workshop at 3 p.m. I wasn’t able to concentrate. Fortunately, that was a lighthearted panel discussion on travel writing in this modern age.

Here are the 5 Tools I acquired at the conference that every writer can use for writing, revising, and editing manuscripts.

  • Delete 30% of the completed manuscript

(Yes, that’s right. Eliminate filler words, an overabundance of adjectives, adverbs, and passive phrases. Eliminate long passages of exposition or backstory. Eliminate scenes that don’t propel the story forward).

  • Map the scenes

(Write all the scenes down and what occurs in each of the scenes. This is best done with a software program like Scrivener or you can write them out in a notebook by hand. Then make a note on whether the novel requires each scene. Delete repeated scenes or scenes that are blocks of expositions).

  • Watch out for pet words and don’t overuse them

(Every author has favorite or pet words that they overuse in a manuscript. Since they the words are red flags to a reader, find other words to replace the pet words).

  • Show, don’t tell

(For me, this is not a hard and fast rule. I think it’s best to include both showing and telling in a narrative non-fiction book as well as, a novel. However, if you can show the story and not just tell it, you’re more likely to engage readers).

  • Consider the modern attention span

(While this one mostly refers to younger readers who want authors to get to the action, many authors include too much detail which slows the pace of a story. Obviously, if you write literary fiction you can include more details and meander a bit. However, if you write genre fiction or YA fiction, cut to the chase or lose your readers).

After three days of attending intensive writing workshops, I gained more tools than what I mentioned here. I hope these tips are helpful and even new in some cases. The show versus telling and the refrain from using adjectives and adverbs have been rules in the book publishing world for some time. They are still relevant today.

Also, make sure that you are not following trends. It can take up to 5 years to complete a manuscript, 2 to 3 years to find a publisher and another two years before your book hits the bookstore shelves. By that time, zombies or vampires would be passe. Always write what’s in your heart and not what you think will contribute to your bank account. Write because you enjoy the craft because writing and publishing are always hard work.

Acknowledgement to four friends who donated money to me through Go Fund Me and by private checks that paid for the registration fee, a manuscript critique, and two nights at the Best Western Harbor Inn.

Thank you to the kind folks at the Harbor Inn, the volunteers, staff, and faculty with the conference. I hope to return.