Writing Advice: 6 Ways to Beef Up Your Underwritten Novel

This writing advice is based on a video by Jenna Moreci.

Have you ever written a novel only to find that instead of being 50,000 words, it’s more like 10,000 to 20,000 words? How can you make it longer?

First of all, read back through it. Does it need to be longer? Why?

If it can be longer and needs to be longer, here are six ways to beef up the word count in the novel.

  1. Show don’t tell. Add specific detail to a scene. Instead of saying it is winter, show how the cold wind bit at the character’s face and how the ice and snow sparkled like glass on the tree limbs. Use lots of body language when you are describing a conversation, not just “he said” and “she said”.
  2. Set the scene. Let the reader know where your characters are in time and place using specific details. What atmosphere did the room give? Were there posters on the wall? What were in the posters? What kind of books was in the room? Romance novels? Biographies of dead rock stars? Is the room quiet, or is there music playing? What kind of music? How loud? Are there quiet whispers of conversation or a loud din of voices?
  3. Attach bodies to voices. Body language, eye contact, and the tone of voice. Include mannerisms. When your character is nervous does he rub the back of his neck or twist a lock of hair? Do they twist their hands together? What are they doing as they talk? Do they sit or stand? Do they pace? Walk across the room. Gesture with their hands? Are they eating?
  4. Subplots. Make some that are well developed and have a good amount of page time. They add dimensions to your story and make sure that the main plot is accentuated.
  5. Deepen your plot. Expand the build-up, rising action, and breaking point. Does your plot progress too quickly? Is there a lot of exposition that could be expanded into scenes? Is your character’s goal too easy to achieve? You may have to add in a lot of scenes that are relevant, and/or go back to the drawing board. Rewriting an unfinished novel is better than publishing an unfinished novel.

A general rule of thumb: each scene should be three to five pages long.

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