Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Increasing the word count of your novel

I’m currently scribbling away trying to bring the word count of my novella How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks up by about 17,000 words. At first it seemed like an arduous task.

How do you expand on a high octane thriller, without dragging the pace down to snail level? 

Then I had a few Eureka moments. Hopefully they may be of some help to you if you find your word count is too short -

1-Think what could I have done differently in that scene to add an extra twist?  For instance, what if instead of escaping she’d fallen at the last moment? What if she saw someone or something she shouldn’t have?  Trip your character up and let them find a way out. 

2-Use Stephen King’s advice and think ‘what should happen next’ and do the opposite of what you’ve done. This may take you down a whole new story arc. 

3-Could you introduce a new character? Someone who could shake things up a bit? I did just that and it took my book down a different road.

4-Have a blast from the past. Does someone, or something come back to haunt your character? A previous crime or misdeed, an abusive parent or partner, someone who should be dead (possibly because your character killed them)? Be as creative as possible without making completely unrealistic.

5- Expand on a subplot. Have you really gone as far as you could with that plot, or did you abandon it too soon in favour of your main one? 

Things not to do –

1-Change abbreviations like he’s and she’d to he is and she had. This sounds clumsy, not to mention too wordy. 

2-Pad out with tonnes of description. There’s nothing more liable to put readers off than two pages describing one tree. What makes you skip a page will make you reader skip too. Every word needs to earn its place. 

3-Come up with something that simply doesn’t fit just for the sake of it. This could be a character who died coming back to life or acting completely out of character. Anything you write has to be realistic and not pie in the sky or too contrived.


  1. I usually have the opposite problem and have to cut stuff out!

  2. It's very hard to expand word count (especially when it's for the sake of numbers, rather than the story) but I find during the editing process a lot of scenes can be expanded if you just read them through as a new reader. I always find that what I've written works in my head but may be too confusing for someone outside the story making process. Try seeing it from their point of view and you'll be amazed how much you've left out just because you know how things 'should' work.

    Steven Chapman (writer)

  3. Some good advice thanks. The weird thing is I had to cut quite a bit to meet the rather exacting word count. Now I need to put it back.


DI Duncan Waddell - Detective in a Coma Book 2

One lost girl. A bus full of secrets -'My new WIP

One lost girl. A bus full of secrets - My new WIP #amwriting