I know lots of bloggers do the A-Z thing, and I thought it would be interesting to do an A-Z of writing. So for the next 26 weeks, and posting every Friday, that’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be covering craft topics, but also more personal things about writing as it affects my life. I do have a list of what I’ll be covering but I don’t want to share it yet as it’s possible it could change depending on my mood.
As it’s well known that I don’t like rules, I want to make it clear that this will be my A-Z of writing. I’ll be sharing things that have helped me. But whether you do the same is entirely up to you. I do hope it will lead to some interesting discussion though. Oh and if you want to do this on your own blogs, then do feel free. I can hardly claim the idea as my own and I’m sure we’ll all have different things to say.
I’m going to start with:
A is for Additing
I can hear you all shouting ‘additing’ is not a real word. According to my spellchecker it isn’t either. I didn’t invent it. That was the lovely Teresa Morgan, and I shamelessly stole it from her as it perfectly described what I was trying to do at that time, which was extend a novella to the required length for the publisher.
Additing is the process of editing, whilst adding more words to make up a required word count (I’ll be dealing with editing on its own when I get to E). When I write 50k pocket novels, I invariably end up writing around 45-46k then have to go back and add more. The first time this happened to me, I automatically thought I’d done it wrong or that my story wasn’t rich enough to fill 50k words. That’s not the case. It’s more likely that I rushed over some aspects of the story.
It’s not a simple process of padding things out. The words you add need to complement what you’ve already written, so it’s not enough to add a few adverbs and adjectives. So how can you ‘addit’ to good effect? Here are some things I do:
Showing not Telling
It helps to look for instances where you might have told rather than shown. It takes more words to show that someone was angry than to say ‘Jane was angry’. Have Jane throw something across the room, or if she’s not that sort of person, show her anger in a way that gives insight into her character. One way of doing this is:
Dialogue is a good way of showing. For example, if you’ve had your main character remember an incident from their past, you can add a lot more words by having them telling another character what happened, rather than just having them think it. This can also be a good way of developing a character. How they interact with others is a better indication of the sort of person they are than the narrator just telling the reader.
Too much description can be boring. Any description works best if it is seen through the eyes of a character. However, too little description can stop the reader from seeing a scene as you envisage it. One of my biggest faults, when writing, is that I can see scenes clearly in my head but I forget to tell the reader what I’m seeing (or more importantly what my characters are seeing). I tend to do this during long conversations. When additing I have to go back and let the reader know where my characters are when they’re having this conversation, and what they’re doing (though I’m always dismayed when I go back to do actual editing and find that all they seem to do is drink tea!). So make sure that you’ve given some idea of the setting for each scene and that your reader has a pretty good idea where your characters are.
Have you properly developed your main character(s) and made them fully rounded human beings? Maybe a secondary character could use a little more development. It’s easy to rush over these things when the story is fresh in your head and you just want to get it written down. You can add words simply by giving your characters some lines of dialogue (see above) as they interact with others, or show them as they cope with the fictional universe you’ve created for them.
Whether writing a sci-fi thriller or a rom-com, chances are there will be some emotional scenes, especially when dealing with character development. These scenes may or may not involve kissing or even a full sex scene. If you’re like me you will completely rush over these as they’re so awkward to write. The emotional scene may just involve someone losing their temper or talking about how lousy their childhood was. I tend to rush over these scenes too, usually because I’ve been waiting to get to them (having already decided on my character(s) backstory). Then I fail to convey the emotion properly when I finally come to write the scene. So when additing, go back and make sure you’ve conveyed all the emotion that you meant to convey.
Those are just a few methods I use. I don’t use all of them all the time. I just use what’s needed and in that way I can add about 200-300 words per chapter, which soon gets me up to my word count.
Additing is not a substitute for a final edit, which you will also have to do (again) when you’ve got the word count as you want it. It’s not exactly rewriting either, because rewriting means completely gutting a scene and rewriting it, whereas additing is about embellishing a scene but in such a way you’re not just padding it out. You’re enriching it.
Does anyone have their own tips for ‘additing’ that I haven’t covered here? If so, do share them in the comments.