Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Woes of an Under-Writer

I am an under-writer in the sense that my novels tend to come up short of actual novel length and would more likely be classified as novellas. This isn't always the case, but more often than not, my stories are short.

I have reached a point in writing Queen of Caradale that I have had to put my foot down and say "No. This one won't be a novella." Because let me honest, it isn't even a novella at this point. It's a sad little novelette (yes, there are distinctions in novel length...crazy, I know...).

I don't expect this book to be huge. The first in the trilogy was barely 100 pages, the second under 200. Small is fitting for this particular series. But not this small.

As of right now, it's a sad 75 pages and 26,000 words.

So. I'm doing a major overhaul, something I've never had to do on a story before. We are adding to this story, people.

For the first time in my entire writing career, I am setting myself word count goals. And yesterday, the first day of word count goals, I achieved said goal! :) But the story is still tiny, and I haven't finished my overhaul yet so no celebrating.

Thankfully, there are things that I can easily add to the story without it being forced or ridiculous. I don't want length for length's sake, I want a well-rounded story. I wrote Queen of Caradale in 9 days (yes, you read that correctly). Because of the speed at which I was writing, there a plenty of things I have already discovered that need to be added to the story and I have a list of things that could possibly also be useful although I don't know yet if they're necessary to the plot. We'll see. Having a list of things to add, an actual plan to implement, is very helpful. Because adding to stories is not something I do very often. I don't wax eloquent. I state the obvious and move on.

I'm learning a few new things along this fun little journey I've found myself on for this novel. Growing that word count isn't as easy as some authors led me to believe. Maybe that's because they aren't under-writers like I am.

One of the first things I learned is that the majority of tips to be found online for lengthening stories is for lengthening short stories. Stories that are supposed to be under 3,000 words. That's not helpful. I'm trying to lengthen a novel here, people. Aren't there people out there like me who are trying to reach that 80,000 word mark?

(I'm going to take this moment in the middle of my blog post to muse over the fact that I don't under-write blog posts...just novels...*sigh*)

Playing around with pacing and tension is one thing I've been doing to lengthen Queen of Caradale. Stretching out the build-up and climax of tense moments. I actually think this particular undertaking is helping the overall story arc as well, so that's a wonderful added bonus. :)

Backstory. This is something that will definitely beef my word count because the main character of Queen of Caradale has a full, complicated, and fascinating backstory. I've been working parts of her life's story into the novel and it's been incredibly fun to do so! The problem comes in with POV. This book is written in a first person narrative, and more than that, it is first person present. As in, "I am sitting on my bed, my laptop before me, writing a blog post about the struggles of lengthening word count." You can't have flashback scenes in first person narrative so working in the backstory is a lot of internal dialogue and also tactfully bringing it up in conversations with other characters. It's a complicated business, but I am loving this particular challenge! :)

Adding descriptions. Putting the five senses to good use. This is one of my weakest points as an author in general anyway, so I always have to go back through and add character and setting descriptions in my stories. In this specific story, it's going to help me add to that word count. Descriptions are massively important outside of word count though. They draw the reader into the story, so that's the "real" reason I want to go through my stories and add them. The larger word count is an added (and in this case, needed) bonus.

Today's word count goal is 5,000 words. Hopefully I can make it. And then again tomorrow...and the next day...and the next...

And then, some day soon, I'll have a novel that is novel length and I can finally celebrate. :)

Happy Writing, everyone! (and thanks for listening to my ranting on word count today...)

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