June 7, 2020

How to Increase Word Length in a Fiction Manuscript

Pile_of_leavesRecently, an author approached me for help with a good-type problem: for his romantic suspense the author’s manuscript was 65,000 words, but the literary agent needed a minimum of 80,000 words. With the typical double-spaced manuscript, this is an additional 60 pages–too many pages only to add more description or internal dialogue. Way too many to add backstories. Why? Because these devices all slow a story down, and the romance portion already threatened the suspense.

Author: I was at a loss as to what to do. I had worked so hard on creating the present version that I could not imagine it being changed.

So, we established two goals: first, the additional manuscript should add more suspense; and second, the new material should raise the book’s core question in a new way.

The protagonist (about 28 to 30 years of age) had several younger siblings. One of his sisters was selected for this assignment to work as an au pair. Because the author’s scenes averaged about 1,000 words, we would need about 16 scenes (okay, the math says 15 scenes, but in these situations, I like to pad a bit).

Author: Once the character was selected and the number of scenes-needed established, it was fairly easy for me to imagine her story. I was able to add several issues related to drug smuggling and unwanted advances toward the young woman.

Once the author had these scenes written, he was able to find the day-time periods when her story would occur. Actually adding the scenes to the manuscript became easy, with only a little bit of stitching needed to anchor the sub-plot into the overall story.

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