Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dealing with a too low word count while avoiding "fluff" (revised and reposted)

An lovely agent requested a partial of my manuscript, but stated that it was too short. Since I need to work on adding to my MS and I've been doing posts on the writing and editing process, I decided to repost this.

When I finished the first draft of "BITE ME, YOUR GRACE," The novel clocked in at a paltry 50,000 words. Great for NaNoWriMo, (Ironically, this novel was finished a week before that fiasco) but not good for the market, where desired word count is 70-100K

Still, when the draft was finshed, I put it away to "marinate" for a few weeks thinking that when I picked it up again I would find enough plot holes to fill and add to the word count. Alas, it did not work that way. The story flowed fine as it was and all I could find were things to cut, such as cliches and adverbs. I sent it on to my beta readers and received excellent adivice on where to add words. I was able to get it up to 60K.

What does one do to add to a third or fourth draft? Most editing advice is all about cutting. When do you add to a story? Where and how much? I don't want to put down a few thousand words of extrapolations on the blue of the sky, the green of the trees, and the fine architecture of the buildings in my setting. Some authors can get away with this, but I am not Anne Rice. I feel this would slow down the plot. I don't want to do an accessory by accessory run-down of everyone's wardrobe, I am not Laurell K. Hamilton.

My novel is a Regency Paranormal Romance. It was a blast to write. For inspiration I reread a few of my favorite Regencies and after a few hours of agony thinking I could never match such greatness, (Do any of you do that too?) I noticed a few patterns that enriched the stories and contributed to word count. Here are a few ideas.

1.) What are the current events happening in the story? Can you tie it in to the setting/ plot? Example: My story takes place in England in 1821. King George IV was crowned in July of that year. Perhaps the characters could have a scene during the coronation! (And I did. Lots of intrigue and scandal)

2.) Are you involving all five senses in your descriptions? I seem to neglect taste and smell a lot. Perhaps my character can complain about the stink of the Thames, since solid waste was dumped in it back then.

3.) Is there a transitional paragraph in the book that could be livened up into a dialogue scene? I had a paragraph in which I described my heroine's scandalous behavior which resulted in her being shunned by some crowds. Perhaps I can replace it with a funny scene in which society matrons are gossiping about her.

4.) Remember to "Show" and not "Tell." I know, I know. That declaration is made in every work regarding the craft. Because it's damn good advice. I repeat hear for the simple fact that "Showing" usually takes more words. i.e. "She was angry" vs. "She threw the vase, missing his head by inches." (I know, that's a cliche and I didn't use it, fun as it is.)

5.)Use more dialogue tags/ breakup the dialogue. I went through the ms again and I found a few scenes that were just dialogue. I've been told I'm damn good at it, but that is no excuse for "talking heads" Have your characters do stuff while they're talking. Are they drinking, smoking, pacing, looking out the window, looking down someone's dress?

6.) Do you have an epilogue? I think epilogues are a necessity in romance novels, especially if you are planning on writing a series. I had one, but I hated it and cut it. I forgot to write a new one. I have a better one in my head that ties up a loose end.

7.) And of course, your characters could have more sex.
After all, this blog is about supernatural smut! Just be sure that your heroine spends more time on her feet than on her back...please. We are writing romance, not "Hustler."

That's what I have so far, and I'm now eager to get back to work. I welcome any new tips you all may have.


  1. Great tips! I need to add words myself, and these are handy to have at the ready. Good luck expanding's such a good story. :-)

  2. When my stories are too short, I look for spots where I can add more conflict. I try to add subplots and minor characters that weave nicely through the story in a meaningful way.

  3. Didn't even think of subplots at this time! Thanks!

  4. Looks like you know what you're doing! Don't worry, I have the low word count problem too, with YA it's okay, the word count is lower, but I do have a lot to add - I'm doing that in draft 2 myself, and I'm sure draft 3.

    Great tips! Oh subplots is good :o) I agree with Jamie - great story :o)

  5. This is so helpful! I'll definitely refer to it while I'm revising my WIP yet again! :)