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A new year and I’m hoping for new ideas that lead to new outlines. I’ve been throwing around an idea about dissecting and expanding some shorts and seeing where they might go as novellas or novels.
Obviously the short would be the core of the story but adding words means adding new ideas or/and adding sub plots.
Here’s what I’ve been considering:
- add a reversal into the main plot line
- add subplots and characters complications
- dig, sift, and seek out places for more tension
- deepen the point of view, descriptions, atmosphere, arcs
- transform summaries into scenes
- dig into the layers of the character’s past and add some regrets, grudges, and unresolved issues
The biggest challenge of lengthening a project is making the additions intricate parts of the story, to move it forward and not be bits of fluff I’ll land up cutting on my next round of revisions.
How do you add to your word count? Any advice for me.
When I write, I write a lot. So, I’m only familiar with reducing word count. Adding word count seems like a wonderful challenge. How about adding some new characters to the short? Through dialogue with the protagonist, maybe it adds some depth to the story and moves it forward? Fun! 🙂
Thank you for the ideas. I come up short way too often. 🙂
I might flesh out a scene more, but I tend to need to reduce word count, usually by just X-ing a scene.
Wow! Am I the only one that needs to add words. I sure hope not. hehehe
I have not had to add yet, but cut yes, so advice. Adding sounds hard to me. Wishing you much success with it.
Left out a word, no advice really. Sounds complicated too.
I went from writing shorts to novels. The transition is was tough. I’m still use words as if spending gold. 🙂
I think you have some great ideas to expand your word count. I tend to write lean and then add more description, go deeper into POV, etc. in the following drafts.
Makes sense. It adds more emotion to the work. Thanks. 🙂
I feel your pain. I think because I wrote feature articles for newspapers and magazines, I have the tendency to cut to the core of the story with no fluff. I re-released a novella last month and I doubled the size of it closer to a novel length. Talk about difficult! I fleshed out scenes and added a sub-plot and discovered I really needed to share a lot more character emotion and reactions. I believe I came up with a much stronger plot and characters who will resonate with readers because they reveal their feelings. I didn’t add much more description of homes, nature, etc. I already skip that kind of writing when reading!!! LOL..
When I try to expand a story, this is exactly what I go through too. If you do it too, I’m doing something right. 😉
My descriptions tend to be barer at first, and then on rounds two and three, I beef those up. 🙂
I always try to keep them down to one paragraph. Maybe I need to expand them as well.
If I needed to add words, I wouldn’t add descriptions. I’d add story. Your short story didn’t exist in a vacuum. Something happened before, and those events led to your story. Something happened after. A short story might not be the central idea of a longer work but a starting point.
Definitely something to think about. Thanks, Olga. 🙂
You definitely have some great ideas going. I’ve never had trouble adding length to a piece, more the opposite. =) Still, I’ve found adding inner dialog can deepen characters and the relationships we form as readers with them. This can’t be done to an excess, and DEFINITELY never repeat information, but pulling out motivations based on past experiences or psychological trauma/reasons for a specific response? Those are subtle ways to fatten your prose.
Thanks, Crystal. I’ll keep this in mind. 🙂
I recently had to up the word count of a short piece, so maybe this’ll help: look at the themes, character and what you really want to achieve with the story and add to it. Good questions to ask to help you expand: Why is the character there? What is happening to the character? How did the character get there? How is this going to get worse? How is it going to be resolved?
And, of course, use Crystal’s advice too 🙂
All great questions. Thank you. 🙂
Whenever I expand on my short stories I think about how the character got into the situation in the first place, where they’re going next, and what other conflicts they could have in their lives. Adding extra characters is also a great way to flesh out a short story into a longer work 🙂 The most recent short story I expanded on had two named characters. That story now has at least 8, each with their own goals and motivations, but all linked to each other!
I’ve been thinking of putting two shorts together and changing the setting enough to make it work. That would also double the number of characters in the work and add a subplot.
I like that idea, sounds like it would work well 🙂
I think you’ve got the right idea as far as expanding scenes and adding subplots. You could add in things leading up to the events of the story too. When you add things in it gives you a lot more room to add details and explain things better.
Setting up the story with details is not something we usually do in a short, but a great place to begin the expansion. Thanks, Megan.
I’m working on a novella/novel now that started as a short story. This was many years ago, and it’s seen a number of different forms and revisions since. For me, there’s just a gut feeling that the story wants to, is meant to, be something “more.” I don’t get that with a lot of stories but there have been a handful over the years. Good luck!
You’re right some start off small, but aren’t completely told until they grow to the right size. 😉
I have no advice here. I have never once written anything that needed additional wordcount. Now, If you could give me some advice on how to cut word count… lol
hehehe I’ll see what I can do.
All of the things you listed sound like good ideas. I find just learning about and buffing up a given character helps add to word count. You could also take your stories and try to fit them into the Hero’s Journey structure – if you go through all or most of the steps, you’ll most likely end up with a longer narrative, and you could cut the stories up and integrate them in all kinds of fun ways. Also, take your time on setting, both describing it and building atmosphere and character with it 🙂
Atmosphere and tone seem to be my Achilles heel. Very good point. 🙂
Subplots are a great way to add length. And sometimes, if you examine a short story long enough, you could think of more scenes and twists to add to it. I think it’s fun turning a short story into something longer. There’s so much possibility there.
The possibilities are endless and adding twists and scenes are the answers. 🙂
I find the best way to add word count is to focus on the showing: go deeper in point of view, and amp up the emotion. But as an editor (and like many of your commenters), I’m more familiar with cutting word count, mostly because people start the story too early and have too much unnecessary backstory, or scenes which don’t move the plot forward.
I blame writing shorts first and sticking to a much smaller word count. It’s left a mark. 🙂
I have difficulty cutting down words so I don’t know if the following will help you. Basically the options you listed are all great but before you try to flesh out the scenes, I suggest jotting down an outline for each chapter/scene to see how they add to your central conflict and resolution. Then try to develop your characters in ways that help them achieve your story arc. That should take up a lot of word counts for you. Good luck!
Lupa, I love this. Thank you. 🙂
Most welcome 🙂
Your suggestions are all good ones. I rely upon subplots/complications to add depth to the story, but it makes sense to dig into the character’s past to add depth to the character. Another bloghop to follow – haha.
I do love mixing and matching characters’ pasts. It get so delightfully messy. 🙂
These are all important tools to use in your story. Consider them wisely and drill down deeply into your characters to see what exactly is going on in their lives and why they do what they do in your story. Good luck! You have the right idea.
Will do. 🙂
Great post! I’m working on expanding some scenes and reducing others right now. Thanks for the tips!
Glad to share. 🙂
I tend to be overly descriptive, but what I generally need to add in is setting details so people sense what my character’s sense- like taste, smell, hear, touch, and not just see.
Think of it as reactions to the surroundings. It helps me. 🙂
Hi Anna. Those are some really great ways to add some word count. I tend to build complicated and intricate storylines that need cutting instead of expanding. However, I can give you one way I weave new characters or subplots into a story. I make sure I have a three-point influence. They must touch the main plot at least three times or in three ways. This way they feel intrinsic instead of disconnected. If I can’t get them to touch three times I look for other characters or plotlines that I can merge them with to enrich that one. Not sure if it really helps, but I wish you the best of luck bulking out your word count.
I have to think on this. Sometimes it takes a bit to make an idea mine. This one is going on the back burner. Thanks. 🙂
If I want to lengthen a story, I usually try to add to the character’s journey/plot; either by putting more obstacles in the character’s way, or turning the resolution into another step.
For example, in Fellowship of the Ring, the initial goal is to “get to Rivendell”. It isn’t until the characters reach Rivendell that they learn that there is still more to come.
Adding more obstacles or mishaps is probably the easier of the two, but there’s also the risk of hammering the character with so many misfortunes that the story takes on a certain absurdity.
In general though, I tend to favor letting an idea/story be whatever it naturally becomes, and I’m wary of “stretching things too thin”.
I was wondering if my short could be more of an episode in a greater story. Glad I’m not the only one that thinks this way. Thanks 🙂
Someone once told me that the difference between a short story and a novel is that each chapter is a short story where the resolution leads to the next chapter.
I like your ideas. I love how you work through writing woes.
It’s times like this that I don’t suffer alone… I drag everyone I know into it too. hehehe
I aim for 25 chapters of 4000 words each in my first draft to arrive at 100,000 words for editing. I don’t worry if some are longer and others shorter but it works for me 🙂
I’m usually capped at 90k and stick to 2k chapters–give or take. I don’t think I could a 4k chapter, but that[‘s me. 🙂
I’ve learned from doing an exercise that a good way to add tension is giving your character(s) a reason to obtain their goal in a story. And deepening those reasons, making them more important than life itself, as the story goes on.
I like the deepen idea. Thanks, Lidy. 🙂
Yes, adding words is a challenge. Especially when you feel your story is already tight. I like the strategies you listed. For me, often I need to really get into the mind of the character and think about the 5 senses. I may have shown the reader one sense (usually sight), but what is the character hearing, smelling, touching? This helps me not only add words but deepen the understanding of the characters. I didn’t read through all 57 (my gosh!) comments so someone may have already mentioned this technique. If so, I apologize!
No problem. All opinions are welcome and I agree that the senses are an important part of deepening a story. 🙂
Gosh — clear and forthright in how to deal with a shortfall. Have known some successful writers who launched careers by adding a plot line, POV character, several combinations of your suggestions. Thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome. 🙂
One suggestion I could make is, if you have more than one piece set in the same world, add in details that reference the others. That could help beef up the word count and tie the world together.
Now, that I never thought of. Thanks, Drew. 🙂
When I was writing the draft of my first novel, I worried that I was going to have to add words as I’m used to writing sparsely and to the point from my time in corporate la-la land. Fortunately, my word count ended up being on target. But it remains to be seen if I’ll have to add to or reduce my word count in the final revisions based upon what changes I end up making.
Knowing what your word count should be is critical when submitting. They are not guidelines… just saying, Ellen is right!
Those are great tips! I expand on my descriptions to add words too, and more dialogue. I’m a sucker for dialogue!
I don’t blame you dialogue can be a lot of fun. 🙂
Deepening is always a good technique. You win with the word count and the story engagement factor rises. I once added a character and threaded him into an existing story. It was a challenge, but I got my word count and I also added depth to the MC as well as the story. I really needed that character, but I only discovered it after I’d set my word count goal. Odd way to write a book, but it worked.
Another great approach. Thank you, Lee. 🙂
In early drafts, I do such a poor job of describing the setting and what’s happening all around the characters as they speak, I have to go back through the manuscript and add them in, which significantly ups my word count.
I bet it would. 🙂
That’s a tough one–I’m with you in usually having to add. My drafts are pretty sparse. First and foremost, I try to deepen character emotion and engagement. Then I will beef up description–but only because I write little to none in my early drafts.
I’m glad I’m not alone. 🙂