Long Story Short Syndrome

Photo provided by esra su and stock.chng

Photo provided by esra su and stock.chng

Recently, I’ve struggled with my novel and considered putting it in a drawer, moving on. It’s tough to give up on a project and characters that you feel passionate about. But the fact that it was short on words and likely unsellable worried me. How could I increase the word count without sacrificing the story?

In the January 2014 edition of Writer’s Digest, Elizabeth Sims wrote about seven common miscalculations and missteps that keep your novel from getting published. She also offers advice on how to cure them. My problem falls under the ‘Long Story Short Syndrome’ and she suggests using this trick:

“Take two unrelated heart-clutching moments, or two unrelated story points, or even two unrelated characters, and challenge yourself to come up with a way to link them. Use the first element as the beginning, the second as the end.” Sims says, “Experienced storytellers across all mediums (notably scriptwriting) rely on this technique to add interest and complexity.”

So, I poured over my manuscript, chapter by chapter, trying to find something to expand upon without it seeming like padding the word count. My frustration only increased. I wasn’t ready to give up, but I had to step away.

Photo provided by Alex France and stock.xchng

Photo provided by Alex France and stock.xchng

Here is a TMI moment. While taking a shower, (all my best ideas occur during a shower) I pondered my dilemma and a glimmer began making its way from the recesses of my mind to that place where ideas gather. It was simple, really. Within the story is a flashback (one of several, actually). It was written to show the bond between the master character and someone from her past. I started deconstructing that scene in my mind, looking at it from different angles. Within that scene is a character who is never named, but has a huge impact on the master character. Why not have him show up again later in the story?

It was like I found a loose thread in that flashback and pulled. As it unraveled, I saw a connection, a way to add to the mystery and drama that is already prevalent. It also opened my eyes to another character that had stayed in the background, but needs to be brought to the forefront. I was a bit overwhelmed at the breakthrough.

Now, I need to figure out how to make these threads weave through the established story without seeming to be afterthoughts. To pull it off, research is required. If the government is monitoring my search engine habits, they’ll surely put me on some kind of list. I’ve googled the subject spectrum in the past week, from military ranks to sentences for specific crimes.

The task before me is daunting. I need another 30,000+ words to reach 80,000. I do hope I can pull it off, because I truly love my story and characters. I’m not ready to give up on them just yet.

  • Elizabeth Sims

    Missy, I’m honored to have been part of your writing experience. Very cool that you made such a professional-level breakthrough! Thanks for sharing it with your readers. Best wishes as you go forward on that book.

    • Elizabeth, I’m grateful your article triggered a breakthrough. I had fretted over it for quite a while.

  • Elizabeth Sims

    Missy, I’m honored to have been part of your writing experience. Very cool that you made such a professional-level breakthrough! Thanks for sharing it with your readers. Best wishes as you go forward on that book.

    • Elizabeth, I’m grateful your article triggered a breakthrough. I had fretted over it for quite a while.

  • If the character is that important, why is he never named? Why isn’t he more prevalent throughout? And why hasn’t your writing group seen this work or talked it out with you? Not that I’m nagging, or anything…

    • Nag, nag, nag! 😉 You’ve read the whole thing. It’s the flashback where Yancy is attacked. I wrote it to show the bond between Yancy and Wyatt, but now think the attacker should show up in present day. I’ve been brainstorming and have come up with some ideas. Will talk with the group about it. 😛

      • Okay. I thought you were talking about a different novel. My memory isn’t what it used to be. (You still need to share, though.) 🙂

  • staci troilo

    If the character is that important, why is he never named? Why isn’t he more prevalent throughout? And why hasn’t your writing group seen this work or talked it out with you? Not that I’m nagging, or anything…

    • Nag, nag, nag! 😉 You’ve read the whole thing. It’s the flashback where Yancy is attacked. I wrote it to show the bond between Yancy and Wyatt, but now think the attacker should show up in present day. I’ve been brainstorming and have come up with some ideas. Will talk with the group about it. 😛

      • staci troilo

        Okay. I thought you were talking about a different novel. My memory isn’t what it used to be. (You still need to share, though.) 🙂

  • I really like the post. You are not alone when it comes to this syndrome. Goodness knows it’s happening to me “write” now. 🙂 It can be frustrating, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought about handling it that way. I think I’ll try it! Thanks for posting!

    • I don’t wish this syndrome on anyone, but have to admit I’m glad I’m not alone. Good luck and be sure to let me know how things work out.

      • I will! And, yes, it does take some of the sting away to know you’re not alone– regardless of the problem.

    • I don’t wish this syndrome on anyone, but have to admit I’m glad I’m not alone. Good luck and be sure to let me know how things work out.

  • I really like the post. You are not alone when it comes to this syndrome. Goodness knows it’s happening to me “write” now. 🙂 It can be frustrating, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought about handling it that way. I think I’ll try it! Thanks for posting!

    • I don’t wish this syndrome on anyone, but have to admit I’m glad I’m not alone. Good luck and be sure to let me know how things work out.

      • I will! And, yes, it does take some of the sting away to know you’re not alone– regardless of the problem.

  • mooderino

    I have similar issues. Adding stuff to make the length more acceptable always feels like padding until I figure out actual additional content rather than trying to expand bits that are already there. Takes a lot of showers sometimes.

    mood

    • It’s like writing another story and then deciding how to weave it into the existing story. If I weren’t a sparse writer, I wouldn’t have these problems. *sigh*

  • mooderino

    I have similar issues. Adding stuff to make the length more acceptable always feels like padding until I figure out actual additional content rather than trying to expand bits that are already there. Takes a lot of showers sometimes.

    mood

    • It’s like writing another story and then deciding how to weave it into the existing story. If I weren’t a sparse writer, I wouldn’t have these problems. *sigh*