Oh, NO! My Book is Too Short.
I have read all kinds of writing advice geared to writers who write on and on in great elaborate detail with plots and subplots galore. These advice-givers usually dwell on how to cut: finding unnecessary characters and eliminating them, whacking pages that go nowhere, paring down, down the 180 thousand word book (or more) into a more salable 120 or 150 thousand word book.
I’ve only seen advice from two sources about what to do if you DON’T have tons of words to cut. Holly Lisle and the late Phyllis Whitney, who wrote popular gothic-mystery-romances. I tend to “write-tight” and when my story is finished, usually the book is too short. My last finished draft is way too short. Someone said that it doesn’t matter how long the book is, that it should be as long as it takes to tell the story. I would have to disagree. After all, we are writing for readers, (aren’t we?). Length may not be as much a problem for authors that self-publish, but the reader still wants some bang for their buck. I’ve read complaints in some reviews on Amazon such as : “This was a very short book.”
Do you, like me, write tight? Have you written a novelette instead of a novel? Does your story rush from one scene to the next with not much description?
So what do we do if our book is too short? One thing we don’t want to do is to just pad the story with flowery nothing. The best advice I’ve read from both my two above sources is to insert more scenes. Ask yourself, “What else could happen?” “When could it happen?” Also, go over the rough draft and see where you can add bits of description of action here and there. Put in sensory description: looks, tastes, feeling–mental and physical, sounds, smells. Everything inserted should add to the story development. You don’t want to put anything in to just make it longer.
In my book A Singular Gift, I inserted two long action scenes after the book was finished, and no one else can even tell which scenes were the johnny-come-lately scenes.
My latest draft needs some major work because I feel it is way too short. I let it sit for a couple of months while I worked on redoing my light romance, did the whole Christmas thing, and started a prequel to my three book series. As soon as I finish A Man for Sylvia and get it on Amazon, I’m going to go over the draft to do major revisions. My major revisions are not cutting dozens of pages, but adding to the story. I’ll be taking the advice of Holly and Phyllis and reading through the draft with the intention of finding new pieces of action that fit into the story. I tend to write a lot of dialogue. Now I must see if the dialogue needs more action and description. Here’s hoping that I’m done by the end of February.
Wish me luck!