The students had been carefully selected not just for their writing ability but for their dedication to their craft, and they were an enthusiastic and very talented bunch of young writers.
They will be working on an anthology of short pieces which they will record and present at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival.
Throughout the day, there were many inspiring discussions about writing, but one of the questions that kept coming up was, “How do I write a novel that’s longer than 10,000 words?”
It’s a question I get asked a bit by young writers so I’ve dedicated this post to trying to provide answers. Every writer works differently, but here are some tips that work for me.
The key to writing a longer piece is not to flesh it out with flowery description or mundane detail, but to add things that matter – add action and layers to your story.
When I need to do this I go back to my characters and plot for answers. I look at what is happening in the story at the moment and why it seems to have stalled.
I go back and do a kind of brainstorming/mindmapping to generate new ideas for my story. I ask myself these questions:
- What can I make happen for my main character next?
- How does my main character react?
- What does this cause to happen next?
- How will this affect the overall outcome of my story?
- How can I raise the stakes for my main character?
- How can I develop the subplot to add to the tension?
- What are the themes in my story? What am I really trying to say and what needs to happen for me to say it?
- What flaws does my main character have?
- How can that lead to more difficulties for them?
- What can I do to reverse things for my main character – to take them off in a different direction from where they want to head?
- Can I introduce new turning points for my character – revelations that change things for them?
- How can I develop my main character’s relationships with others?
Something else that might need developing is the world of the story. Have you included enough setting to allow the reader to step into your main character’s life and inhabit the world you have created.
Can your reader picture exactly what is happening to your character? Have you created realistic scenes that will resonate with your reader? This could be another area you can develop further.
How long your story should be is not an easy decision. We have to work to publisher submission guidelines, but I always try to write the story I need to tell and focus on the story itself rather than how long it should be.
I’d love to hear how you get moving again after your story has stalled. Feel free to share this post and leave your tips and stories in the comments section of this post.