Seven Ways to Increase Your Novel's Word Count

When I cross 5000 words in a book I'm writing, I start to pay attention.

This is always my first milestone. For a moment, I celebrate. I smile and close my eyes and take a deep breath. Around 5000 words is when the story becomes real. Even though I've done it countless times before, word 5000 is always the test. The characters feel alive to me. I understand their quirks a little more. I get the pull of their flaws and hang ups. And I'm suddenly aware of everything around me and how it relates to this story I'm creating. 

In those first moments, every word feels like a victory. And word 5000 is usually one of my breaking points. I've started seven books. I've finished four of them. I'm working on one right now. It never fails. Around the 5000th word, there's a pause.

You'll experience many fevers over the course of writing books, but the initial one is a doozy. You'll get giddy and confident. You'll start telling people, "I'm writing a book!" But then word 5000 hits and you're simultaneously relieved you have that many thoughts and scared out of your mind that you just finished a short story, a really short story. Not a book. 

Do not stop at word 5001.

Do not stop at word 19865. Or even 46735. Keep going until this story you know you're meant to write is finished.

Perfection will come another day. Critique can wait. For now, just let the words flow. Let the characters come to life before your very eyes.

Some things that help me: 

  1. And then outlines — you might have heard me talk about these before because I love them so much. And then outlines help you create a foundation for where you're going in a story. So, an and then outline for SECRETS DON'T KEEP would look like

    Kera and Dex have thai food
    and then they get into an argument
    and then Kera leaves and goes to the tunnels
    and then she runs into Sebastian
    and then she finds the tape
    and then Logan shows up

    So you see that it's not very detailed, but when I'm writing, each of these moments can turn into a scene. Most times, this turns out to be a lucrative activity because I'm brainstorming about possible scenarios. And, while I'm writing, these moments have helped crystallize the direction so I'm more likely to fill in the gaps with even more detail and action. 

  2. Anti-social app — I love this tool for so many reasons but mainly because it keeps me quiet and focused and OFF of social media. Once you download, you choose the time and your computer instantly disables distractions. I typically use Anti Social because it still gives me access to the internet (and research) but you can also disable your internet with their app FREEDOM. Seriously y'all — any time I do writing sprints, I rely on this tool right here. Perfect for those shots of writing time we all crave but never seem to get because of notifications and the shiny bright lights of Facebook.
  3. I write in silence, but edit with music fit for my story. So, this suggestion would be taking time to build a playlist specific for your plot. Make it good. If your book turned into a movie, what would the soundtrack look like for a particular scene? One of my favorite activities that always gets me inspired. Seriously. As soon as I heard Beyoncé's 7-11 last year I knew it was going to be in Secrets Don't Keep. And of course, not only was it in the book, I created an entire scene around it. 
  4. Or, you can listen to Awake the Bones Vol. 2, an exclusive playlist built just for you and your words.
  5. If you get stuck, schedule a coaching session. Sometimes, we just need to verbally process and get to the core of WHY we're stuck, you know? I get it. When I'm writing, I've bent the ear of many in my process to get a scene just. right. Don't be afraid to use this link. :) 
  6. Break the rules and go back to reread what you've written. I KNOW. This is a huge faux pas in writing. But who cares? Going back and rereading what I've written has revealed plot holes and inconsistencies I wasn't aware of initially. It's helped me developed characters. It's put flesh around the bare bones of a scene I struggled with on a day I wasn't inspired. Go back. Reread. You might be surprised what you find.
  7. During your reread, implement some self editing tools. Read out loud to hear the pacing. Switch the font to notice things you didn't before. Print out the book so you can get tactile. Get curious about your book and I promise new things will pop up you never considered for the plot
Posted on December 21, 2015 and filed under Building Your Craft.