Monday, December 15, 2008

Upping the Word Count

Plenty of information exists on how to tighten your sentence structure to cut out unnecessary words and trim the fat from your writing, but few resources explain how to increase the word count. And believe me, adding fluff doesn’t count. An editor will spot it right away and so will avid readers.

To prove my point, I’d like to share my experience during an interview with a well-known, respected editor at a CBA publisher. This editor seemed interested in the story but wouldn’t ask to see it since it was too short for their single-title line. My immediate response was that I could lengthen it. The editor replied that they wouldn’t want me to add “fluff”. I told her I would add a couple of plot twists. She seemed tempted to entertain the thought, but with me being an “inexperienced” and “unpublished” author, she wasn’t willing to take a chance.

So how do you add 25-30K words to a manuscript without making it seem like a bunch of fluff?

I have three methods for increasing the word count. If you only need to add a few thousand words you may only need to choose one or two of these. If you need to add 15K words or more to your manuscript, you may try layering in all three of these methods.

Add a Few Plot Twists
Throw in another obstacle or two to keep your main characters’ from achieving their goals. You may have to deepen their motivation to keep them going, but it will be worth it. Among your new scenes, be sure to show how this will affect them spiritually and emotionally. What reaction can you show that won’t take him/her out of character?

If you are satisfied with the beginning of the story, I would recommend adding a few plot twists around the middle toward the end of the book. This way you will only need to revise the beginning and rewrite from the middle to the end of the story, adding new scenes as necessary.

Add a New Sub-Character
If you choose to add a new character, make sure that character has a specific purpose and is instrumental to the story. Will this character contribute a new viewpoint? How will he/she change the story? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Will this change confuse the reader or add to the depth of the reader’s understanding?

Some characters won’t make or break a story, but they can definitely add flavor through humor and annoyances to enhance it. Examples of some of these characters are the donkey in Shrek, Smee in Hook, and Lilly in the Princess Diary.

Write in Deeper POV
Another way to significantly add to your word count is to write in a deeper point of view. This is a layering concept that connects with the reader on a deeper, emotional level and is much harder for inexperienced writers to achieve. I’ve written a couple of blogs on Digging Deep into POV that may help with understanding this concept. The second post on this topic includes a few examples.


Whenever you need to increase the word count, make sure you add something that is meaningful and not fluff.

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