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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Writing - As long as it gets (1)

There’s an axiom that goes: a novel is as long as it takes for the story to be told. And that’s very true.

Naturally, there are a few conditionals attached: has the story been told adequately, so that the reader doesn’t get lost anywhere along the way? Have the characters justified their existence in the story? Is there a beginning, a middle and an end?

Sometimes, the writer needs to write sufficient words to meet the criteria of a publisher – or even the expectations of their readership. Too short, and they all feel robbed; too long, and there’s the risk of creating a soggy middle that bogs down the reader.

No easy choices.
 
If you’re getting to the stage in your manuscript when you feel it doesn’t have enough words; and you'll know this, instinctively, then you need to ask yourself some searching questions. Here are a few, not exclusive:

Can the reader 'see' the scene?

Is there scope for the odd red herring or misdirection?

Is there scope to add a minor sub-plot?

Are all the characters adequately described, doing enough, justifying their existence in the story?

The temptation is to add padding – this temptation should be resisted. Don't go in for padding with dialogue that doesn't move the story forward.

Don't make scenes longer per se; give them more depth, more drama, more description, perhaps.

I’ve discussed this dilemma in an earlier blog, here:

http://nik-writealot.blogspot.com.es/2014/04/writing-tip-its-too-short.html

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