When I sent off my manuscript, it held a little over 65,000 words. Now, published, it has over 90,000.
I sent my manuscript off believing the story was finished. I knew there would be editing and revision involved, but to be honest, I thought it would include more taking out then putting in and adding.
Isn’t that what people say anyway? When you edit you’re supposed to take stuff out?
So. When my editor contacted me and asked me to build some characters, strengthen the beginning and add about fifty pages, it seemed impossible.
And then I remembered an exercise I did with my students every year.
I’d remind them of the process of building a home. First comes the foundation and then the frame. I’d ask what comes next and they’d answer the walls, the carpet, the paint, the decoration….
Then, I’d write a sentence on the board—something adapted from a novel—something like He ran into the woods or She took a sip of water—and then would tell them this sentence was their frame.
For the next few minutes, I’d allow them to create. Through the power of words, they’d transform the simple sentence into something completely different and always original. What started as something everyone had become something they could individually possess.
Because in the end, everyone had a much longer sentence with more strength, more imagery and more depth that echoed their individual voice.
Back to the Manuscript
This is how I approached my manuscript. Even though finished, I chose to see it as the frame of my story. I went through and page-by-page built it up and made it my own.
When I got to the last page on the third read-through, I knew it was a better story. It felt complete.
It took about 30,000 words to get there.
Sometimes, brevity is brilliance. Sometimes, saying what you need to say in as few words as possible is needed.
And sometimes, development is the key. Sometimes, it’s not enough to have it be cold. Sometimes, your character needs the icy wind blowing against her cheeks in order for the reader to really understand.
Have you ever written something that needed more development?
1. Build this sentence: He walks to the front door.
Note: do this before reading any other sentence below! You want this to be you and not inspired by someone else’s words.
2. Share your new sentence in the comments
Extra: take a look through some of your old writing. If you have a blog, take the piece through a reading and see how you can develop it – building tone, imagery, maybe even characterization. Link to the new and revised post in your comment.