I find myself in an odd position this week. I’m writing the next book in my Royal Hearts series and it’s way too short. Now, for me that’s not unusual, I do tend to write short. I’m very concise. I don’t add a lot of extraneous detail and usually have to go back in and add descriptions of rooms and people in my second go-round. But my current work is really short. I mean, really, really short. (I’m approaching the mid-point of the book and I’m not quite at 30k words and the contract I signed with my publisher is for an 80k word book: at this point about at least 20k short).
Now, I realize that most writers have the opposite problem – they write too long and have to end up cutting some of their “darlings” to make the book shorter and more concise. At this point, I would welcome that problem! I recognize, however, that that is as difficult as the one I’m facing: what do you cut? Do we really need to get rid of that scene? I love that scene?! I know, but if it doesn’t move the story or character forward, it has to go. (This is a topic for another blog post).
But what do you do when you’re too short? When you simply don’t have enough material there for the length of the book you are meaning (or needing) to write?
You create a subplot.
But it can’t just be any old extraneous subplot. I can’t, say, have a side character develop their own story within my main character’s book without it having some impact on the main plot (well, I can and I’ve seen it done, but it was just laying the groundwork for the next book in the series). If you have secondary characters doing their own thing—which is wonderful, develop those characters, make them real!—then their actions still need to come around eventually and have some connection to the main plot or the main characters.
Most importantly, a subplot needs to be another avenue to show the character growth of my protagonist. It could also be a secondary conflict that is also keeping my protagonist from achieving their goal. No matter what, it needs to supplement the main story.
The trick, of course, is coming up with what this subplot should be. So, how am I going to do that?
I’m going to fall back on my bag of tricks I use to get out of writer’s block:
–make a list of ten things that could possibly happen
–go for a walk
–look more deeply at my characters and what they want, and see how I can create conflict to stop them (or slow them down) from attaining that
And, yes, I will consider adding scenes from the villain’s point of view (because in this case, the villain is an actual person who is pulling strings to make life difficult for my heroine).
Will any of these add up to my missing 20k words? I don’t know, but I hope so. If not, I may have to search around for yet another subplot.
Wish me luck!!