On Expanding Word Counts (Part 1)

A problem that a lot of novelists seem to have these days is making their books too long. There are countless forums online where word-loving authors bemoan the fact that their middle-grade novel is 120,000 words long and they just can't cut it down any more!!! Arrrgh!!!

To those authors, I say, you are lucky.

Because I have the opposite problem.

A few days ago, I finished the second draft of my YA novel, The Dreamon (If you don't know about The Dreamon, you can read about how I came to write it here). It totally worked, and I was very happy with the story, but there was just one problem -- it was 29,000 words long.

29,000 words, while 4,000 words longer than my first draft, is still pathetically short for a novel. Officially, a novel starts at 40,000 words, but even that's incredibly short. Bona fide novels really start at 50,000 words, and most of them hover around the 80,000-word mark (usually more for sci-fi and fantasy, and less for contemporary romance).

Obviously, I had to do something about this.

Now, I'm going to make something very clear. When expanding a novel's word count, the last thing you want to do is add waffle. It's unnecessary and it's boring. You want to add words which will add to and flesh out your novel, not just add words for the sake of adding words.

With this in mind, and a good supply of tea and chocolate on standby, I have begun working on Operation: Expand.

The first thing I did was to set a target word count. I'm aiming for over 40,000 words, because it's the bare minimum I can do without ending up with a novella. I'd still prefer 50,000, but an extra 11,000 words is going to be hard enough to add already.

Next, I looked for places in my story where I could make more stuff happen. It's never a good idea to add stuff for the sake of adding stuff, but I found a couple of places where the action was a little sparse, and the story needed more meat. That bumped the word count up to 32,000 words. 8,000 words to go!

Currently, I'm experimenting with subplots. It did help that my second draft had neither hide nor hair of any romance, so a romantic subplot or two is definitely on the cards. I'll probably write another post about my efforts on this front later (I've shied away from romance in my books for ages, so it's going to be interesting to see how my first efforts go).

If subplots don't give me the word count I need, I have a few other ideas of how I could beef up the word count without being waffle-y. I'll blog about these as I go. Stay tuned for part two of Expanding Word Counts!

Here's a handy little infographic for all kinds of children's books!
Update: Part 2 of this post can be found here.

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