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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sometimes It's About Addition, Not Subtraction

I've often read and heard advice from writers that one of the most important things to remember is "don't be afraid to kill your darlings."

That, of course, refers to a writer needing to cut anything that doesn't add to the story or doesn't advance the plot or narrative.

I may be running into a different situation, though, as I complete the first draft of my second novel.

The first draft of my planned first novel checked in at more than 71,000 words. I had a lot of ideas and multiple characters I wanted to cover. So my time writing was spent pouring all those ideas out onto the computer screen and I may have tried to do too much.

But as I entered my second novel, I had a better idea of where I wanted the plot to go and the arcs my characters would follow. I introduced new characters and concepts, but had a better idea about how they would fit in.

I've already written 17 of the 26 planned scenes for the second novel, but I'm at 24,000 words. That puts me on a pace to write less than 40,000 words -- far from the idea length for a novel.

Obviously, I'll need to finish the first draft before going to the next steps, but one I will have to keep in mind is where it's OK to add or expand the story.

In other words, there are times when it may be reasonable to add more to a book. Perhaps it's digging deeper into a character's mindset, more description for a setting or expanding upon a minor character. I think writers can do most of these things without bogging down the reader with too much information.

With that said, I don't know yet how long I'll go with the scenes I have yet to write. So it's possible I'll have a suitable length for a novel when the first draft.

But we should remember that deleting something from a draft may not always be the answer. Sometimes you need to add more to make the story better.


  1. I know exactly what you mean. I used to do more cutting than adding, however I find that some of my first drafts now are hardly more than an expanded outline of what happens.
    That's good, though. It gets the story OUT. For me, I always write better if I get the entire basic story out in a relatively tight timeframe. (I love NaNoWriMo!) But then I can go back and add in the descriptions, the thoughts, and all the other detail that might have been clear inside my brain but didn't translate onto paper.

    1. I agree. Getting the words onto the paper or laptop is the first step. The rest comes later.

      If anybody did put together a first draft that was publication ready, that person is one heck of a writer!