Friday, February 15, 2008
Q & A 129 My books are too short.
My books always end up forty or fifty percent shorter than I'd like them to be. Do you or the minions have any suggestions for fleshing out a book to proper novel length?
I have the same problem. I've written three novels, all about 50,000 words. I console myself with the knowledge that Mission Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard is 1.2 million words, while Novel Deviations 3 is fewer than 30,000. Which would you rather read?
Here are some ideas I've considered applying to my own novels. Perhaps one or more will work for you:
1. Write an exciting 10,000-word story with the same main character as your novel. You can throw it into the story anywhere, since it's actually a dream. Have the MC wake up from this dream in a cold sweat. The dream should include symbolism that works with the real story. Bonus Tip: Don't open the book with the 10,000-word dream.
2. Make your MC a writer, and include some of her writings. (See The World According to Garp.)
3. Let's say your MC is a plumber. About five chapters into the book you add a scene where he goes to Miss Maxim's house to replace a dishwasher. This allows you to throw in some plumbing knowledge about flanges and saddle valves and gas cocks. Plus they have sex. To keep this from being a totally irrelevant scene, later in the book Miss Maxim is found dead, killed with the pipe wrench in the conservatory. As the pipe wrench is inscribed with the MC's name, he becomes the MS (main suspect). After five or six chapters involving a murder trial, a conviction, and a last-second phone call from the governor, the MS is freed and you pick up the novel where you left off.
4. Put two of your novels together into one book, and call it Dueling Novels. The odd pages are novel 1, and the even are novel 2. The challenge is to read it straight through keeping up with both, though wimps can do one at a time.
5. Describe everything with lengthy metaphors. Example:
Short version (17 words): Shapiro limped into the messy kitchen, put the grocery bag on the counter, and opened the refrigerator.
Long version (75 words): Walking like a duck-billed platypus with a high ankle sprain, Shapiro entered the kitchen, which looked like the aftermath of the Battle of the Ardennes--if it had been fought in a kitchen. He put the grocery bag on the counter like a flight attendant putting a baked chicken and penne dinner onto a dozing man's tray table, and then pulled open the refrigerator door as if it were the gateway to heaven itself.
Not only an extra 57 words, but much more descriptive.
6. Cut mercilessly until you're down to the 3000-word short story your book probably should be.
7. One word: footnotes.