Ways to Swell Word Count

So, I’m still around 10,000 words behind schedule on my NaNo, and what’s worse, I think it’s telling me that it wants to be a short story. Truth be told, I feared this might happen. I want to shake it and say, But I don’t write short stories! To which it returns, I can’t help it that I want to be done in 10,000 more words and YOU want me to stretch it out for 30,000.

I’m still going to try to finish this thing. I’m planning a “word war/write in” for this weekend with a good friend who is also a veteran NaNo-er. I suspect that in squeezing 30,000 more words, I’ll probably have to discover brand new plot twists that I can’t even imagine right now. And I’ll try not to get stuck thinking, What’s the point if I’m going to cut this all and turn it into a short story?

But words on a page are never pointless. Even the ones that get deleted are necessary to getting you where you need to go. So, I need not to resent these words, even if they don’t feel “necessary.” Even if this does ultimately become a short story (which would be kinda cool, since they’re much easier to sell), dumping extra words into it at the outset will surely make it a better short story. Right?

So, I’m brainstorming ways to raise my word count. Suggestions are welcome! Here’s what I’ve come up with.

  1. Have characters engage in meandering philosophical discussions, such as the meaning of life and human nature.
  2. Shamelessly exploit your childhood, dredging out old wounds, and put your MC through them (what is writing, if not therapy?).
  3. Indulge pointless conversations the characters have around the dinner table, starting with such openers as, “Mmm, these peas sure are good. Where’d you get them?”
  4. Describe things that really don’t need to be described, like how the MC puts on her pants one leg at a time.
  5. Let characters wander around and explore the setting while you’re stalling for a plot development to come your way.
  6. Flashbacks. Lots of flashbacks. Your MC has a diary? Where did she get it? What else has she written in it? Don’t worry about whether the flashbacks are relevant to the story or not. It’s character development! Flashbacks have LOTS of words!
  7. Insert a young child into your story, particularly between the ages of 3 – 6. You know how kids that age LOVE to talk? Just think about how many words come out of a 4-year-old’s mouth! That needs to be exploited for sure.
  8. Describe what ALL your characters are wearing, including what they paid for each item in their outfit, where they got it, where else they’ve worn it, and how they feel about it.
  9. Allow your MC long internal dialogs.
  10. Insert a character who is hard of hearing. All your other characters have to say the same thing about five times when she’s around. Instant word boosts!!

Chris Baty, in his weekly NaNo pep talks, has some great suggestions, too, such as having a character sing American Pie start to finish or recite favorite passages from the phone book. I’m not above having my MC recite Catholic prayers in their entirety. Now, it might just be time to pull out my Catechism and see which prayers are longest.

*MC = main character

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3 Responses to Ways to Swell Word Count

  1. Jenny says:

    Ooh, you forgot about adding cryptic classical poems to the beginning of each chapter, so everyone knows how literary you are!

  2. This is one reason I’ve never tried NaNo; everything I write ends up way too short to qualify as a novel. I guess that’s what happens when most of my writing is for four-panel comic strips…

  3. Oooh, adding poems to the beginning of each chapter, that’s a good one!

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