It’s not a short story!

NaNoWriMo lied to me.
When I first started writing 50,000 words was my end goal. After all, that’s what NaNo said was required for a book, and a non-profit writing competition wouldn’t lie to me, right?
Mind you, 50k might as well have been a million for all my ability to write that much. Twenty, sometimes thirty, thousand was about the height of my ability. But 50 seemed plausible, if I stretched.
Unfortunately for short-winded me, I learned that 50k was considered underachieving, unless what you wanted to achieve was a novella. All the cool kids write to 75-95k nowadays, and novellas don’t have a particularly impressive hard copy market.
Feeling overwhelmed, as I often do when I try to look to far ahead in my writing career, I did some research and asked around for advice. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Add a subplot.  This was everyone’s favorite suggestion.  There are lots of articles out there for how to do it, whether ‘it’ is adding a parallel plot, one that ties in, or something completely irrelevant.
  • Extra descriptors.  The second most common recommendation I got was to go back and make sure every scene hit all the senses- sight, touch, smell, sound and taste.  That last one was the origin of a number of jokes between Kevin and myself about my protag going up to people, taking a long lick, and saying things like “He tasted like bewilderment and anger, almost like someone had just licked him.”
  • Add characters.  Not enough zaniness in your plot?  Add a character or two!
  • Add scenes.  Thank you, that is very helpful.  If only I’d thought of it myself!  (I can’t be too sarcastic- if I had thought of it myself, I probably would have done it and we wouldn’t have this problem.)
  • It turns out that there aren’t a lot of ‘filler’ bits you can add to a story without making it bloated and ridiculous, so obvious my best bet is to figure out how to make the interesting bits take longer.  Do you guys have any recommendations?  How do you meet the new, improved length requirements? And for those of you that constantly write 20 or 30k more words than is required, how do you do it?

    P.S.  My manuscript is at 55,561!

    3 thoughts on “It’s not a short story!

    1. 55k is fantastic!! I’ve had kind of similar issues with nano. Finished one story around 60k which still felt a bit light for novel length. That one I did some work on writing from other characters perspectives and adding an element set in an earlier time. I think that worked but it really depends on the story. The first nano I wrote about 80000 and was happy with it (though it was pretty intense month.) last year I had a one month old baby so set myself to do a ‘half nano’ which I was totally stoked to manage. Good luck!


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