In a previous post, we discussed shortening your story. Today, I’m going to talk about lengthening your story.
Most writers tend to overwrite and then cut back, but some writers under-write. This is often the case with writers who write for a living, like journalist and copywriters. Their entire story will be told in 750 words when they need 2 500 words.
My first draft of a short story is usually very short, around 250-500 words. I need to get the idea on the page first. Once that is done I must figure out if I can lengthen it. Sometimes a scene is simply that, just one scene, but I need to increase my word count. What can I do?
First I need to figure out what I have left out. I know I tend to skip setting and description in my first drafts so I look there first.
You can increase your word count in two ways:
Make changes to your writing:
You can make structural changes to your writing that will increase your word count:
- Pacing: Slow down the story.
- Tension: Add to the tension, by dragging it out and writing slow motion moments you will be able to add value. A time constraint, like a ticking bomb or the imminent arrival of guests, is a handy device as well.
- Sentence length: You need variety when it comes to sentence length, but longer sentences will help you up the word count.
- Add adjectives and adverbs: I’d rather say, make your descriptions stronger, by using strong nouns and verbs, but a few adjectives and adverbs will certainly add to your word count.
Make changes to your story:
And then, you need to make changes to your stories to increase your word count:
- Scenes: If your story is very short you will probably only have one scene. Figure out what scene came before and what happened after. This will help you add two scenes.
- Back story: This may be an opportunity to hint at backstory. You can even use a flashback.
- Add characters: Is your character alone? Perhaps he needs to phone a friend, to help him carry the corpse.
- Add setting description: This is what I tend to leave out, but don’t go writing travel brochure. Make sure the details you are integral to the story.
- Add character description: This may be an opportunity to add layers to your characters and flesh them out.
- Add a subplot: If you are writing a longer short story, as in 4000 or even 7500 words you can consider a subplot.
- Dialogue: Use dialogue to add backstory and strengthen motivation
- Dramatise events: This may be where you can delve in to the events that shaped your characters or the events that upset them. Write it out.
- Emphasis, symbolism and foreshadowing: Experiment and add some layers.
Not all of these are going to work for your story and be careful of adding words, but not value.
by Mia Botha
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