EelKat Wendy C Allen - Dark Fantasy Author

How do you make your story longer?
| NaNoWriMo |
Reaching 50k

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>I realize I'm a underwriter and was hoping for my story to be at least 50,000 words but that didnt go as planned.

First ask yourself:

  • Why did I choose 50,000 words?

If you were planning on publishing a 50,000 words "novel" because NaNoWriMo lied to you told you 50k was a novel. Stop yourself right now. Go get a copy of the Writer's Market (the directory of publishers) and start reading publisher guidelines.

The first thing you will notice with every publisher is the big bold font which reads:


Some things to consider, if you are planning to publish. The publishing industry has standards and they don't give a rats ass how much NaNoWriMo lies to you, those industry standards are these:

  • a short story = anything under 50,000 words
  • a novella = 50,000 words to 120,000 words
  • a novel = 120,000 words to 300,000 words
  • an epic novel = 300,000 words or more

Some publishers consider what they call "light novels" which are 90,000 words.

So... if you set the 50,000 word goal because NaNoWriMo lied to you, know that as a general rule, publishers, agents, and career authors consider NaNoWriMo and it's members to be ill informed idiots at best, and scam artists spreading mass miss-information to new and impressionable writers at worst. And if you send them a 50,000 word "novel" to publish, they'll know immediately you didn't do any research into the publishing industry and you'll be added to the list of authors that get automatic rejects regardless of what they send.

The bulk of publishers won't have anything to do with anyone who writes 50,000 word "novels" regardless of if it was a NaNoWriMo story or not. NaNoWriMo and it's cult of 50k "novels" is seen as the laughing stock in the professional world of publishing.

A lot of young writers have had their hopes and dreams of becoming published, crushed and shattered by snark mouthed editors of big publishing houses who called them every bad name under the sun.

Check the NaNoWriMo forums every March, and you'll see the mass hoards of tens of thousands of WriMo's asking NaNo the same question: "Why did you lie to us? I tried to publish this and was told I was stupid for thinking 50k was a novel. Editors are mean. Publishers hate NaNo. Why did no one tell me? They said NaNoWriMo is a black spot on my career and I'll never get published with a big house if I let it be publicly known I wrote a NaNoNovel! Why did no one tell me? Why wasn't I told 120k is a novel! NaNoWriMo why did you lie to me?"

You have to watch the forums fast too - those threads get shot down and deleted minutes after they are posted and the members who started them banned. The NaNoWriMo mods are fierce at protecting their delusions that 50k is a novel.

Try Googling NaNo Blogs... you'll find thousands of members who regret ever seeing NaNoWriMo citing it ruined their chances of ever getting published.

NaNoWriMo is a good tool for getting your draft written, but that's all it is. Don't rely on it to give you honest or accurate advice on what a novel is or how to get published. What publishers want and what NaNo says publishers want are to very different things.

If you think you need to add more to make it a novel... well, you need a hell of a lot more words then 50,000 to be considered a novel.

That said...

There are publishers for everything.

If your story is under 50,000 words, then seek out magazines and anthologies to submit it too. Be sure to read the guidelines. Some only want certain word counts and your story may be too long or too short depending on what they are looking for.

If you were aiming at a "novel" publisher. Well, you have a LOT of writing ahead of you because, no professional in the industry is going to give you a second glance until that story is minimum 120,000 words long.

Now, ask yourself another question:

  • Why do I feel the need to add more words to this story?

Is your story actually finished? Are you happy with the characters, plot, dialogue, etc just the way they are right now? If so, then, why add more?

If the story is finished and you are happy with the characters as is and the plot orks and everything is as it should be, then you have no need to add more words.

However, if you story is finished and you have this sense of guilt or depression or jealousy or anger because of the wordcount itself, well, that's something you probably want to see a psychologist or psychiatrist about, because likely it is something serious, health wise going on and has nothing to do with your story and it's word count at all.

Do you feel you need to add more words because you have some sense of failure and not writing a novel? Are you feeling that you are worthless for only writing a short story? If so, this is a very bad reason to be adding words. Sadly this is something I hear so many writers say over and over again. They get down on themselves saying short story writers are hacks and pine for some mythical prestige they think novelists have.

If you are thinking that way, then stop it right now. That's a one way road to depression. It's unhealthy, and it's just not true. Novel writers are no better or worse then short story writers. Some of the most famous authors on the planet wrote primarily short stories: Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, H.P.Lovecraft, H.G.Wells, Ernest Hemingway...

If you think you have to reach 50,000 word out of some sense of competition and trying to keep up with some other writer... don't. This is also a bad reason to add words. That is called jealousy. There are dozens of cases in the past 4 years of authors who felt they couldn't compete with another author's word count, so they hunted down said author and murdered them.

Don't Become one of THOSE writers who cares more about what other authors write then what you write. Nothing good ever comes of it.

    Don't add words just for the sake of adding words. That never goes well in the end.

    Reasons to add words:

  • Is the story actually not finished?
  • You feel you've left something out, but you don't know what?
  • You feel the characters are thin and cookie cutter and need fleshing out?
  • You think the plot is weak and flimsy and needs more structure?
  • You think there isn't enough dialogue?
  • You wrote nothing but dialogue and now want to add some descriptions and narrative?
  • You wrote no dialogue at all and feel it needs some?
  • You feel like there is a plot hole?
  • There are loose ends not tied up at the end?
  • Does it read like one long info dump and need to be rewritten into a more fluid format?

All of those things are GOOD reasons to keep writing and add more words.

Let's move on to your exact question:

  • How do you make your story longer?
  • How do you get your word count up? I've written two books, each about 150 pages, i really want to get to that golden 300 page mark so i could maybe try to shop it around, but god damn, i just don't know how these professional writers write these 800 page books, ive been reading some long books to see how its done, they seem to be very descriptive about things is that the key, what do you do to get your word count up.

How do I do this?

For me, it depends on the story and the reason I'm adding words.

I tend to write to the extremes. Either the story ends at under 30,000 words or it ends at close to 400,000 words. I don't know why. It's just how I write. The story is either very short or very long and never in between. Go figure.

Often, with my stories, I find that I'll have this space where the story went from Point A to Point C and completely missed Point B. This results in a plot hole in the middle and loss ends at the end. In other words the story will go like this:

  • meet the characters
  • meet the bad guy
  • here's the problem
  • here's the solution
  • the end

Do you see what is missing there? The "hero's journey" is completely not there.

It should have gone like this:

  • meet the characters
  • meet the bad guy
  • here's the problem
  • here's why the problem is a problem
  • uh oh... this smaller problem is preventing a resolution to the big problem
  • that's solved
  • damn, now this problem won't let him solve the big problem
  • okay, that can be solved by... wtf? what's the bad guy doing now? I'm trying to solve a problem here!
  • here's the solution to the big problem, but it's out of reach
  • 3 things going on at once now, little problem, bad guy needing dealing with, and big problem
  • stress, stress, stress, all hope is lost, there is no resolution in sight
  • well damn it all! As if I didn't have enough trouble, now this too!
  • hey look! I fixed it! Yay me!
  • what the hell? why? Just when I thought I was gonna make it
  • ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,...bad guy throws everything he's got in the mix
  • tension, the hero is gonna die, there is no way out
  • oh wait... hey that works
  • now our hero can relax
  • the end

It's called "The Roller Coaster Effect" of giving the main character one big problem to solve, but then tossing in lots of little side problems that keep preventing them from reaching their goal.

If you are writing a short story, then the first list is fine. It's direct and move from beginning to end with no sub-plots.

But if you are writing a novel, the second list is essential to keep the story moving, and keep it interesting. sub-plots are a required part of writing a novel. Sub-plots keep the action moving forward. Sub-Plots give your characters other things to think about besides the main quest.

In my experience, if the story is too short, it's always because I neglected to add interesting sub-plots and side quests for my characters.

The longer the story, the more piles of trouble you need to heap in your hero's path.

A thing I like to do is use writing prompts and random generators to throw completely random, totally unexpected things in my character's way. r/writingprompts , the Dares GeneratorChaotic Shiny, and Seventh Sanctum are great for this.

For example in one novel, I had this long scene of them just travelling from one town to the next and nothing happening. It was okay, but it was also a place that I could make better and expand the word count at the same time. I took a random generator, and got the challenge to "add HellHounds to the story".

So I take that travel scene between the two towns and add 3 random Hellhound to it, that jump out of the bushes at them and attack them. Next thing I know the main character has got a bite wound on his leg and he's pretending it's okay, but it's really not, and by nightfall he's getting to weak to travel, so suddenly my story takes a different side turn, as they have to find medical help, and end up in this village (which I also now had to add to the story) where they meet these 3 witches who help him, but while there he has a nightmare as a side effect, that turns out to be a vision, that ended up connecting to the original plot quest...

Well, none of that was in the original plot. Now suddenly I had 4 extra chapters and an additional 9,000 words in the middle of my story.

It did not take away from the original story and it ended up adding more colour and flavour to the plot, gave my characters more things to do, and allowed my readers to see additional sides of my character's personality, to see how he reacted in this situation.

I find that it's quite easy to add things like this to any story, because no matter the plot, you can always find some place where you could add "something more" and stick in a new extra problem for your character to have to face and solve before they can move forward to the end goal.