Friday Fix (Craft): Deepening Your Fiction Writing

So you’ve finished your novel, but you find that you are several thousand words short of the publisher’s required minimum word count. What do you do? You go back and deepen your writing.

How do you do that?  Here are a few tips that I use:

1) Look for places in your story where you can add emotional texture.  A good way to find these places is to locate where you have not used the five senses.  Fiction writers often use sight and hearing frequently, but they neglect to use smell, touch, and taste.  These senses add depth to your story, not to mention words.

2) Check your setting for specific details. Have you described the colors, sounds, and scents in the room? Have you given your reader a picture of the office by using specific details?  Have you painted the exquisite textures of the countryside?

3) Review your dialogue.  Is there enough of it?  Does it fully convey your characters and their situations?  Are there places where you can add beats to enhance characterization?  

By applying these three tips, you will not only deepen your writing, but you will also be adding necessary words to your story. Remember the operative word:  Necessary.  Every word must be necessary to your story.  Otherwise, it is an empty word.

There is a critical balance between writing to word count and letting a story choose its own word count.  A story is done when it’s done.  At the same time, a story often has room for improvement.

What techniques do you use when your story runs short of a publisher’s required word count?  Do you choose another publisher? Do you let your story dictate its word count?  Do you work at deepening your story through techniques like the ones above? We’d love to hear from you!
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Copyright 2013 by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD. All Rights Reserved.

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6 thoughts on “Friday Fix (Craft): Deepening Your Fiction Writing

  1. Yes, when the story is done it’s done. If so, I may look for another publisher if it’s a short story since there are so many markets with varying submission requirements.

    I prefer to write past the word count and then tighten up stories by looking at every word and every scene. It’s amazing how many “extra” words one finds while cutting 500 words out of a 7,000-word story.

    Your ideas make good sense, though, when one comes up short and thinks, just maybe, s/he can improve the work.

    Malcolm