3 solid tips for getting more words on paper

  • Sharebar

iUniverse would like to address a topic which few writers are comfortable talking about – which is, the simple fact that words are difficult to produce and that lengths of novels are hard to reach. (See our advice on word counts here.)


Alexandre Dumas, author of The Count of Monte Cristo and a master of word production.

Part of the reason for this is our training in writing.  Most of our education in writing has focused on an economy of words to relate simple facts and come to almost immediate conclusions. If you have studied business, law, or journalism, this is certainly the case. And even if you have studied philosophy, literature, or history, your writing education would have emphasized extreme relevancy and no tangents.

The difference for writers of novels is that our purpose is to tell a story, not simply relate facts or prove an argument. Stories are not simply about getting from Point A to Point B in as little time as possible; otherwise, most “novels” would be about three pages long!

Hence, to start getting more words onto paper, you need to take the hardcore efficiency that you were taught in school and put it aside during the writing process. Frankly speaking, it stifles your momentum. Here are some practical ways for iUniverse authors to add more meat to their books:

Create side-stories: The detective in your story may be finding clue after clue; but what about explaining why he had to leave his last city under a black cloud? Or the love affair that went awry? Or perhaps an old friend who surfaces and asks him for money or protection? And this can be done for many characters, not just your main hero. Stephen King, who writes 2,000 words per day (rigidly), is known for the side stories in his novels. Some side stories evolve enough to become a sub-plot.

Use more dialogue: As we say in another post, never underestimate the value of dialogue in helping you increase your word count. Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo is a 1200-page book told largely through dialogue.

Create detours to your main story, that cause it to wind rather than go straight. This can be done by introducing new characters, or having a scene that was going smoothly suddenly encounter a pitfall. Instead of referring to the dinner party in passing, make the dinner party a separate chapter with stimulating conversation and which also develops your characters. In short, make your scenes more vertical.

Writers to read, if you want to see examples of how subplots and dialogue can successfully lengthen a novel, include Dickens, Thackeray, Dumas, Henry Fielding, and Sir Walter Scott.

Please bear in mind that iUniverse still believes that a novel should have coherence. Don’t just throw in extraneous matter. But if you sit there continually agonizing over whether a scene or passage will be relevant, chances are that you’ll never get that book finished!


Make sure to check out the iUniverse site for more advice and blogs, as well as iUniverse Facebook and iUniverse Twitter.



Related posts:

Do you have a topic in mind?

The iUniverse Blog encourages discussion between iUniverse authors and is designed as a platform for you to let us know about your book’s success, your book events and other news you think will be of interest to your fellow writers. iUniverse authors are invited to participate in the iUniverse Blog as guest bloggers. Please contact us if you would like to be an iUniverse guest blogger.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *