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.