Tips on Increasing the Word Count for your Novel

The dilemma of adding more words and pages to my first manuscript didn’t disappear over the 4th of July weekend. I am still short 8,400 words, which is better than the 18K I started out with a week ago. 
Neither the heat in the San Fernando Valley or Santa Clarita, CA, where I attended some great BBQ’s, gave rise to anything remotely related to the creative process (except how to balance my plate of carne asada con salsa and keep my beer cold until the bottom of the can). It caused the opposite. It was all about survival: the sunscreen, hat, swimming pool. Then it was about chowing down, the chisme, and familia.  I came back drained from the sun and unable to sleep until three in the morning (no air-conditioner) although I was sleeping on the savannas sin pijamas.

Today I worked my way through thirty pages of rewrites and then came up dizzy. It’s still hot and remember no air conditioning. So I pushed the laptop away and began readingWriter’s Digest online and blogs. Like most trips, you can find something interesting along the way. I found “A Checklist for Writing a Book,” by Mark C. Newton. “Collect them all and you get to be a writer (publication not guaranteed).” This is my favorite of his ten points, and I paraphrase:
* If your heart is not in it right now, walk away. Come back later. Do not sit down and write when you’re just feeling a little too tired or jaded. The words you put down will probably get taken out later, so why not just save yourself the time and kick back with a (insert beverage of choice) instead. If you’re not enjoying the process, then why the (insert word of choice) should your readers? Mr. Newton, you are right on. I think I’ll go make a sandwich and check the ice chest for an Ultra Lite.

On “Wordsharpeners Blog” by Tamara L. Kraft,  I found a great suggestion:
*Blow something up. There’s nothing like blowing up a character’s plans and goals to increase the word count of a story and to make it more exciting.
Okay, we’re getting somewhere. I pulled out a sheet and titled it:  “What If…”
The pen took on a life of its own. What if the Protaganist, Lili Rivera mid-forties, gets pregnant, gets convicted of the DUI and does jail time, is in jail and finds out she’s pregnant ?
What if her ex-husband (a cop) wants her back? What if he locks up Lili’s current boyfriend, who already has a shady past, on trumped up charges?
What if Rooster Doyle, Lili’s old boyfriend and her daughter Emma’s dad, tracks her down and tells her he isn’t dead?
What if one of Lili’s sons’ runs away after she’s arrested for DUI? What if both run away?
Okay, now we’re cooking. I can pick two items from the menu and develop at least 10K words. I’m feeling so much better now. Ditch the Ultra Lite for a Diet Coke, it’s Tuesday you know.
But I go on to another blog, NovelDoctor.com by Steven P.  His introductory sentence hooked me. Word count is the devil you have to love, or at the very least, respect. Here, here, I said-this guy really understands.
“You missed your goal of 80,000 words by 25,000, didn’t you? There, there. No reason to cry. Well, there might be a reason to cry, but we won’t know that until after you try some of these ideas for increasing your novel’s word count.” Here is a couple that I found useful:
*Introduce a Brand New Character or add to a Minor one. Not just any character, but someone who is significant enough to throw your protagonist’s plans a little out of whack. A new character can add depth and texture (and words) to your story. Maybe I can have Lili pursued by Principal Grant, not her type, but a nice guy if he had the right hair and clothes and she was mature enough to see through her own shallowness. This would add an interesting sexual harassment suit too. Hmmm.
What if you consider all these ideas and nothing seems to work? It’s possible the novel is un-expandable. “Perhaps 55,000 words is exactly the right length for your manuscript. If so? Confidently shop it around to agents and editors. A great story is a great story is a great story.” I love you Novel Doctor. Now, do you happen to know how to fix an air conditioner? 


Categories: Increasing word counts, Novel Doctor, Revision, Wordsharpen Blog, Writing

2 replies

  1. Great tips! Thanks for sharing.

    I always think of Ernest Hemingway and his wonderful stories. That's why I decided to start with stories. Someday I will advance into novels 🙂

    Doris

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  2. You're welcome. I've recently become re-acquainted with Hemingway's style when I watched “Midnight in Paris” and read John Baxter's “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World.” Now it's on to his “Movable Feast.”

    Like

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