When writing a novel, most writers have a target word count that they’d like to reach in order to create a book that will be competitive in the fiction genre. In practical terms, however, it’s not always easy to reach that desired word count. Our experts at Author Solutions have compiled some useful tips on how to add more words to your manuscript, while also making the story more interesting to read.
Focus on richness instead of efficiency: One of the main reasons writers experience such difficulty in producing lengthy passages when writing fiction is the fact that our modern education system systematically trains students to be frugal when it comes to words. Typically, in a school setting, we are taught that less is more and that the most effective writing is concise writing that gets straight to the point without much beating around the bush. In areas such as journalism, law, and business writing, where the purpose of the writing is to report data or prove an argument, it is certainly true that the best way to communicate is to state the facts clearly and succinctly and help readers to draw quick, easy conclusions. In many cases, even students of such fields as philosophy, history, or literature are encouraged to stick to relating essential information and not go off on tangents when writing academic papers.
When writing a novel, however, being economical with your words may actually work against you, because the purpose of writing a novel is to tell an interesting story – and that includes vivid sensory details and other devices that help the reader enter the world of the story that is being told. While you certainly have the option of leading your readers from the beginning to the end of the story very directly and simply without much distraction, if most stories were told in that fashion, most novels would be only a few pages long. In fact, it is much more rewarding for a reader to embark on a creative journey that takes them on exciting tangents while reading and experiencing the story.
If you’re working on a novel, you’ll need to learn to overcome the majority of the training that you received as a writer while you were in school. By setting aside the efficiency that you were taught, and letting yourself dally with images and details, your story will come to life in a way that is much more exciting and satisfying for your readers.
Create side stories and sub-plots: Most great novels don’t actually tell only a single story, but rather develop a story by means of the many side-stories that embellish it. For example, if a character in your story is suffering from depression, it may be useful for your readers to understand the details of their abusive childhood. If a heroine is reluctant to entertain a certain suitor, a back-story of her previous failed love-affairs may give your reader more insight into the reasons for her resistance. As in life, well-rounded characters in literature are complex beings with secrets, ulterior motives, and past experiences that form and influence their behavior.
One author who is known for the many great sub-plots in his novels is Stephen King, a writer who diligently produces 2000 words daily. In his works, many of the side-stories or sub-plots are as compelling as the central narrative, keeping his readers on the edge of their seat throughout the length of the entire novel.
Embellish your story with dialogue: Well-written dialogue is an excellent tool for drawing your reader directly into the world that your characters are experiencing. Dialogue can help you bring your characters to life, endowing them with personality and helping your reader to visualize how they speak and act. The use of dialogue can help convey the intricate complexities of a character’s intentions when being deceitful or manipulative in conversation, and help you to illustrate power imbalances in relationships. By “hearing” your characters speak, your reader feels drawn into the room with them, and gets to know them better. Great dialogue also makes a story more visual and entertaining, making it more suitable for adaptation for film or television.
Take your readers on a winding journey: Instead of telling your story from start to finish in a straight line, let the story go off its main path from time to time, and go on tangents that add surprise, suspense, and excitement to the reader’s experience. Break up the flow of the story with unexpected elements, such as introducing a new character or sudden plot twist. Use flashbacks to provide background for certain scenes, and allow these flashbacks to become entire chapters in the book. In short, making the story more circular than linear will make for a more interesting journey for your reader. Think if it as driving the reader to your chosen destination by taking the scenic route instead of the highway.
Read novels by wordy authors: To get a sense of how wordiness can enhance a story, there is no better exercise than reading lengthy, wordy novels by authors who have mastered the storytelling craft. Authors such as Charles Dickens, Henry Fielding, Vikram Seth, Ayn Rand, Carl Sandburg, James Clavell, and Sir Walter Scott may have a lot to teach you about how to make words actually count. While it’s never about adding extraneous irrelevant content to pad a story, understanding how more words can actually be more rewarding in storytelling can help you get to your target word count creatively and intelligently.
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