3 things you can do when your story is too short

Boosting your word count without adding in fluff.

It happens to every writer occasionally. No matter how clearly you outline and how verbose you feel as you are writing, you get to the conclusion of your story and your word count leaves something to be desired. Do you leave it as is and try to promote a short piece? Or do you try to increase your word count to where you were hoping it would end up?

If you chose option A, this is the place for you. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to give your word count a kick in the butt.

  1. Explore side characters. Maybe your sidekick has a backstory that you haven’t explored. Maybe your hero has family who you mentioned in passing that you could include in the story directly. I’m not advising you to add fluff for fluff’s sake, but very often writing about these side characters can add depth and interest to your story that would otherwise be missing.
  2. Show, don’t tell. On a somewhat related note, are there scenes in your story where you gloss over a scene rather than exploring it completely? Could you be accused of telling when you could be showing? It’s good advice in general that you should show and not tell in fiction, but this goes double when you are looking to add to your word count totals.
  3. Look into subplots. This one might seem obvious, but it’s very easy to get so focused on your main plot that you forget a novel isn’t just your hero and your heroine from point A to point B. Having some complications along the way doesn’t just make things more fun, it helps your reader better bond with your characters, and makes your characters feel more like people and less like two dimensional figures.

When it comes down to it, lengthening a story shouldn’t just be about padding your word count. In order to boost your word count while also staying true to your original story, it’s important to think about why you are doing it and now just how. Keep these things in mind and before you know it, you’ll have a fantastic (and fantastically longer) story on your hands.

Image Courtesy: Positivewriter.com

An Example On Where Stories Come From

The dead horse everyone beats about stories is writing what you know, but what’s the story behind the story?

My most recently published short story begins with someone getting punched in the face. At the time I felt like I was getting punched in the face by life— and maybe cracked over the back with a Louisville slugger for good measure. A little melodramatic? Maybe, but channeling that feeling worked for the story.

I had been working with a production company on a television pilot for eight months. The project was an original that I had pitched after they had read one one of my scripts. I had written several extra drafts of the pilot after what I would have considered to be a finished script just to make everyone happy, all while being reassured by everyone involved that the pages were great and that the process was closing in on pre-production. I turned in my last draft on Monday and waited for the phone call that was guaranteed to come on Friday, which then became next Monday, which became Friday again but it was absolutely going to be on Friday morning which was exciting because morning calls are the calls where good things happen. The call came on Friday afternoon with the news the project was being put on hold.

It’s a strange feeling being able to measure exactly how much of your time— especially such a large portion— was wasted only to see it hobble to such a milquetoast conclusion. You get punched, your breath wheezes out of you like a spent chew toy, and you crumble down to the mat and get lost in the ceiling lights. My immediate solution was to think of more series ideas; smaller ones that would be light on the budget and attention grabbers. I scrambled out more ideas and demanded another meeting. I reminded the company that we had a great working relationship and they should hear me out on some other concepts. That meeting was like the previous eight month experience, condensed into a half hour. I went home despondent and restless. The thing that I had based my day-to-day around— and my future— was gone. I looked over my pitches, never wanting to write another script ever again. There was one, however, that I hadn’t pitched. It was also my favorite idea of the new bunch but a part of me deep down knew that the second pitch meeting was a quixotic last grasp at something that was never going to happen. Pitching the last concept just wouldn’t have been worth it.

The series idea was about struggling female pro-wrestler on the independent circuit, working week to week out of high school gyms and wherever else they can put a ring together and get people to show up. The show was more about dreams— obscure dreams, why we pursue them, and the mentality behind chasing something that just seems to hurt you. I think that was something I understood pretty well at the time.

I wrote the first line just like how I would have started the show, only with permission to be myself and explore the happier part of writing in free expression. It wasn’t a show or even a novel, it was doing something different and deciding to look at the world a little differently. The whole process of the damn show was about getting knocked on my back, finding my story and the best way to tell it was getting up before the 10 count.

This post is contributed as Guest post by Simon Nagel