Monday, July 10, 2017

How Not to Make a Novel Longer

Many of us in our writing careers have had a novel that simply wasn’t long enough.  Sometimes, it is poor planning on our part when we misjudge exactly how much word length each element of the plot entails.

Other times, it is due to a market shift-- a publisher who wants one length either closes down that line or rejects your book so you have a book with no home to go to.  

This problem has been solved to a certain extent with the advent of self-publishing and ebook publishers, but, if you want to sell to one of the major publishers, you must either rewrite to fit the available markets or shelf the book.  

I recently read a Regency historical which was obviously written for the defunct short Regency market then had around 20,000 words added to make it fit the historical market, and it’s a classic example of how not to lengthen a book.  

Novels have a certain rhythm to them, and like with a song, most of us sense when the end is coming.  Plot ends are being tied up, the bad guy has been thwarted, and the emotional problems, particularly between the hero and heroine, are being settled.  

When I felt the novel coming to a close with many pages yet to go, I realized what this author had done.  Instead of adding another subplot to make the novel longer, this author had chosen to leave the short Regency basically untouched except for a few extra sex scenes and to continue on with the story.

This choice meant that the novel came to a complete stop because all the plot points had been answered, and the hero and heroine had come to a certain emotional closure so they were worthy of their happily-ever-after.

The author then lured the reader forward with standard honeymoon events and sex for several chapters then family matters and villains who had appeared to be handled reappeared and trashed their relationship once again so it was back to square one for them.  

This was not only annoying, but it also gave a lie to the possibility that these people would ever have a happily-ever-after if they couldn’t get past their emotional issues.  

Even if they seem to solve them this second time, it’s more likely that these problems will reappear again.  Like a bad monster movie where it appears that the monster may rise again, the final page seemed to say “The End?”

When that short novel needs to be longer, resist the urge to leave the main body of the book alone, and, instead, work in subplots to make it one whole book.  It will make a better book and won’t annoy your reader.

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