Beginning today, I am taking a 26,000 word story I wrote nearly a year ago and expanding it to novel length, whatever that may be. I've tried to let this story go, but it keeps coming back, asking to be rewritten and expanded. I truly love the story. I know, I wrote it, so of course I love it.
Here is my request. Have you ever written a novel? Have you ever taken a shorter work and turned it into a novel. Don't worry if yours was never published. I am interested in gaining insights into the process of rewriting. Any lessons you've learned would be helpful and appreciated. If you have never written a long story, I invite you to participate in this forum with questions for those who have.
I was going to post this a s a question rather than as a forum topic, but I am hoping that there will be enough participation that we will need the flexibility of the forum format. Please feel free to share what you have on any and all aspects of writing long fiction.
I have written novel length stories mostly for clients. I am now working on two trilogies for two different clients, plus my own full length novel which was supposed to have been a novella.
Usually a short story/novella is a shortened version of a long story. At least that's how it is in my head. If I should write all the details of a story which pops into my head with full character development, scenic development and twisted plots, them my stories would be very long.
The trick is in what you've already written and if you can expand it. Do you characters need more development. Is there something in the story you hinted at that can be expounded upon? Is there another part to the story you didn't tell? Stuff like that. You may also want to add another character or event to tie in everything.
Cardisa, thanks for responding. Your insights are very helpful. I have one main character with three others who are in the immediate background throughout the story. Then there are several who are present throughout the story, but don't have the spotlight on them. But they are essential. My main character definitely needs more development as do the other three.
As far as expanding the plot goes, it will be a pleasure. I was leaving a lot out during the first writing simply because I was posting it here on HubPages and wanted to limit the length of each segment.
Thanks again. If you think of any more suggestions, please come back. I'm already working on it this evening and will be at it every day until I finish.
My first novel actually stemmed from a short story. Well, it was actually more of what I imagine would be a simple story for an episode of a television story. I wrote it simply because I knew the series was never going to show anything to give me the answers to the questions I had at the end of one particular episode. Once I had it completed, I thought "why not build something before that action and something after. I'd never written a novel before and what I ended up with I self-published. The people who've read it liked it so much, I now I have six other novels based on the same characters.
My story was easy to work into a novel because it basically ended up being one chapter in the middle of my book. If your short story is complete by itself, I would think it would be expanded by adding more details about the characters - where they come from, their motivations for doing what they do, their personal histories. I'm sure once you start adding more to the plot in whatever way your creativeness leads you, you'll have a novel in no time.
sheilameyers, Thank you for sharing your experience here. I am excited to be talking with people who have already gone through the process of writing a novel. It is interesting to hear about the seed of your story and how you built around it. My plot is already written. I know where it begins, where it ends and much of what happens in between. I suppose I need to hold the existing story loosely in case it needs to change in some places.
You mentioned adding motivations for my characters doing what they do. This is very interesting. One of the main characters is doing something that is dangerous, selfless and extremely beneficial to the others. I need to bring out why he is doing this. What caused him to be so willing to step out on behalf of others?
Thank you and I hope you will come back if you think of any more helpful advice. I'm already hard at work tonight and will stay at it until I have a novel.
Cam: You're welcome. What you said about your character is interesting. When people so that in real life, other people think they have some self-interested motive. And when you mention about "hold the existing story loosely" I thought it's a good idea. However, if you really like the short story the way it is, I probably wouldn't change too much. Just a thought.
When I read your heading I thought, oh dear - because a novel is long (the very shortest is about 50,000 words) and "beefing up" a short story can usually result in a lot of useless padding. However, at 26,000 words you're halfway there, so that's unlikely to be so in your case.
The first question is - how are you going to approach it? Are you going to throw out the short story and rewrite from scratch, or are you going to take the existing text and expand it? Both approaches are valid.
If you're going to keep the existing text and expand it, I recommend Scrivener:
I was very sceptical about it but I tried the free trial, and I'm now totally hooked and going to buy the full version. However even if you don't want to spend the money, it would be worth making use of the trial to get started - you can use it for a full 30 days, then export it before the end of the trial.
As for how to expand - you obviously have some ideas on what needs expanding. Another tip is to look at your scene-setting. In a novel you have more room to paint a picture. A good goal is to try to use all five senses when describing a scene (though I usually get stuck at three or four!).
Marisa, Thank you so much for sharing your insights. You've asked a very good question. How will I approach this task? Rewrite from scratch or expand on the existing story? I believe I will rewrite from scratch. My writing, in my humble opinion, has developed a lot since I wrote the original, shorter story.
I will definitely look into Scrivener. I'll accept all the help I can get. Thanks for the tip. And I don't mind spending some money either.
Scene setting is another place I had to skimp in the original. I will take your advice and look into expanding that quite a bit.
Thanks again and please come back if you have more to share.
I have written a few Hubs on novel writing (if you look on my profile and select "books, literature and writing" you can see them). I'm not an expert, and I have yet to finish my novel - but in those Hubs I'm mainly passing on lessons I've learned from attending courses and from research. I found writing the Hubs helped me cement the lessons in my brain!
The biggest lesson to learn is that there is no right way to write a novel. I've had people tell me I need to sit down and write a character study for every character, write a "story arc", plot the trajectory of every chapter before I start (so there's a good "hook" on the end of each one), etc etc. None of that works for me - for me, the joy of writing comes from discovering my story and characters as I go along. If I work it all out beforehand, putting it down on paper becomes a chore. However, it might work for you - it's up to you to decide.
Marisa, I believe, I hope, that having written the shorter version first will serve the some of the same purposes as the ones you mentioned. I know my characters pretty well already. I know what happens in each segment and where the story winds up. I feel free to change anything I've written before, but I have a guide already. Does this sound like rationalization? I hope not. I don't mind working hard at writing, but I don't want to be robbed of the fun and excitement that goes along with it.
Thanks for coming back and sharing your thoughts.
Chris/Cam, I have a novel in process and it will be the first of more in the same series. When I started the novel, I soon learned that the characters really needed to be characterized and unique. There are many characters involved, all somehow related. It got rather confusing even to me -- so, I stopped and created a biology on each character (ie: physical appearance, birth/marriage,death dates, relation to main character, personality, unique beliefs, quirks, etc.). I did this in a spreadsheet. When I write each chapter, I verify the character and his/her life, etc. with their biology. This helps me greatly to keep it all accurate and solid. It took a long time to create the family tree and the biology of each character, but, once I did I found it is invaluable to the integrity of my novel.
This spreadsheet keeps me sane while writing - because I have a tendency to wander and get side-tracked into unrelated things. It works for me.
Phyllis, your method sounds like it would keep your characters very consistent and believable. I'll get a file going right away, seriously. I appreciate your input. Keep coming back with more.
I am happy you like the idea. I will include the "Family Tree" in the beginning of each book, which will help readers remember who is who.
Excellent idea. I think Ken Follet did that in Pillars of the Earth and the sequel. It is helpful. I remember referring to that in those books.
Phyllis, I don't know your book so this may be totally irrelevant - but I'd urge you to do an analysis of all your characters and ask yourself whether all of them are really, truly necessary to the narrative.
One of the biggest mistakes authors make is to share everything they know about their settings and characters, when they do nothing to carry the story along. Recounting unnecessary details about minor characters can really bog down the story and draw attention away from your main players.
Settings can be the same. I read a book recently where the writer had obviously done excellent research on the history - but he spent so much time sharing irrelevant facts about the period instead of sweeping me forward, I got irritated and didn't finish it.
I think Ken Follett is a good example - his books do have a lot of characters but he's careful about which ones he paints in detail and which ones are sketched in. He's obviously done his research, too, but only a fraction of it makes it into his books.
As I say, this may not apply to you - but it's something to think about.
Thanks, Marisa, for the well thought out advice -- I appreciate it. The reason I did what I did was to keep all characters and relations straight in my mind. Also, since the book spans several generations, it is important for dates as to when marriages and births occurred. The details will not show up in the storyline, it just helps me to keep the integrity and accuracy of the story and makes the characters more real for me.
Only the simple family tree will be in the book for the knowledge of the readers.
Marisa makes an excellent point, as always . I usually group my character in three. (1)There are the main characters, the ones that the story is built around. I give these characters the full development they need, never usually all at once, I like my character to grow with my story. (2) Then there are the supporting characters which I give a bit of attention but not as much as the protagonists. (3) Finally there are the filler characters who are mentioned in passing but never really described to any extent. This might be a shopkeeper, or the mailman. In most cases there are no names because, once you name a character they come to life and readers get curious about them.
That's another great point, Cardisa - drip-feeding motivation and back-story rather than dumping it in all at once!
Yes, it's kinda boring reading the description about a character all in one page or so. I usually mention what color eyes they have when I mention the way they look at something, their color hair as it glistens in the sun and so forth. The same goes for their personality and family background.
That is a good way to group characters, basically what I do also. And my characters do grow with the story. Since my book and sequels transcend generations, I have to keep ancestral dates and relation accurate. Not all my characters come into the story at once, but are dispersed throughout at different times. It won't make sense to anyone till my book is read and I cannot give out anymore info without giving away my story. I just gave the idea of family tree and biographies as a way to keep characters in their proper order and to enable me to remember each character's personality, etc. as I write about that character. The biographies are for my own use only, not to be included in the books.
I wrote a fantasy short story for a fiction writing site. That same year I decided to partake in Nano and write a fantasy novel that I had been thinking about for a while. As I was working on this I decided to use the short story I had written and incorporate it into the bigger story. The short story is fantasy as well. I actually have this story published on HP called The Caverns of Kildun Aalda
Lois, It sounds like the NaNoWriMo is a helpful way to go. It is exciting to hear about other writers, such as yourself, who have actually written the novels that they set out to write. It is encouraging. Thanks for sharing and please come back and share more.
As Marisa said there is no right or wrong way to write your novel. Some people use structured outlines while others just wing it and let their creative juices flow.
For my clients I use a basic outline of character description and chapter summary. That way the client can have a basic idea of what I am doing. However, I always tell them that the outline is not engraved in stone and characters can change along with the story. Having my basic outline helps me to stay on track as well and give me some sort of structure,lest should go off in a totally different direction.
My two published novellas were written and published here on Hubpages. Purple Roses was literally written in the hub capsules and not on my PC.
My only advice would be to take notes of your ideas so you don't lose them, but whatever writing technique makes you more creative, then go for it.
Cardisa, I think I should make some notes about my characters. It's too easy to have them say or do anything I want.
I enjoyed writing my story here on HubPages. The readers were very supportive and encouraging. Knowing that they were waiting for the next part made it easy to stay motivated. You suggested taking notes. I did not keep any notes from the first writing. I wish I had kept them. I know there were good insights that would have come in handy.
Thanks again Marisa. Keep coming back.
Great idea, and when you have done it, share it with us chapter for chapter. When that is all done create an ebook download! There you go. Well done! Great project!
No! No! No! Why give away your whole novel on HubPages? If the whole book is out there to read for free, who will bother to buy it? Besides, HP doesn't lend itself to serialisations, because it's not easy for a reader to follow Hubs in sequence.
By all means, post the opening chapter to get some feedback and encouragement, but giving too much away is likely to have a negative effect (and leave your work open to theft, too).
I agree with Marisa. When I published my novellas here they were rough drafts really. As soon as I was ready to polish and expand I removed them. It's not a good idea publishing everything here.
I'm glad you broached this subject, Marissa. I have wondered about posting the first few chapters of a novel on HP, then making the rest available as e-book via an Amazon link. (Something I may be interested in doing for the future for my short stories/plays.)
So, in terms of marketing: Do you think that publishing an introductory chapter or so for your novel on HP (to generate buzz), and then linking to the whole book on Amazon is a good strategy? Or would you suggest another method?
Marisa, I won't be publishing the story on HubPages. The short version has been there for about a year, so it can stay. The longer version will be rewritten, so hopefully it won't be seen as a previously published work. You're right, it is difficult for people to keep up with a serial story. I've published a lot of flash fiction here and that works well.
Rather than publish anything on HP, I will be looking for a few proofreaders. Thanks for your support and input.
You should still remove the short version when you are ready to publish the full story. Even though you are basically rewriting it, I gather the plot and theme will remain the same, so there you don't want someone stealing your short story or potential buyers to say they've read the shorts so why buy the book.. I would give a synopsis or 1500 word summary in a hub with a link back to your published book.
Nadine, At this point I am not planning on posting any of the newly written version on line. The shorter version is on my profile in 12 parts. The title is "Who Is Abby Jones." I know, the title has to go, but that's what it has been for about a year. The overall plot won't change much, but the characters will be more defined and there will be more detail at certain points. My main character really is a remarkable woman. It will be fun to bring out her character traits more.
My first novel was very short. But I felt I'd told my story. When I had a couple of trusted friends proofread it for me, they asked me questions, things I hadn't covered in the story that they wondered about.
Just by answering their questions, I doubled the length of the book. Now when someone "proofs" my work, I encourage them to think of questions they want to ask instead of just telling me what they liked or didn't like.
I've posted chapters of books on HP and gotten good feedback here because more hubbers are avid readers than authors themselves. Avid readers make the best proofreaders, in my opinion. One of my most faithful followers here is actually proofing my current novel, and she is contributing an amazing amount to the work.
Best of luck with your assault on the blank page!
I like your idea of having proofreaders write down their questions. It seems like that would be very revealing of missing of information that the readers need. As for your current proofreader, I bet I could guess who it is. Maybe not. Anyway, thanks for the input and please come back if you have more to say.
Cam, one way to do it is to expand your story world. As you know more about the world you will see new ways that your characters fit into the world and man of these will (hopefully) compliment the themes in your original story. This allows you to embellish the tale and add texture and depth while retaining the element which make the original story work/
p.s sorry I haven't been on the flash fiction page you set up, I have been rather busy lately. It is still something I think is a great idea and want to be involved with as soon as my schedule allows.
Hi Mark. I love what you said and it's very true. Even with having written more than a few novels, the same thing will happen. I create a character and learn more about him/her and the way he/she fits into the plot as I get further along in the writing. This is great thing for writers at any level to know.
Mark, that is great insight. I appreciate it. I will spend more time getting to know the world that my characters live in. There is a lot to know and understand. The cultures are rich and full of possibilities. I just have to stay focused and write my story, not every story.
Don't worry about the flash fiction group. It will happen when it is time. There hasn't been much activity. No worries. Thanks for jumping into this discussion and feel free to come back and share more.
I always expend stories by lengthening them. because once the scene is written in generally contains whatever I wanted it to contain. To make the scene itself longer would involve completely restructuring it and rewriting it with more events and/or more levels of theme.
If you are considering submitting the work to a publisher be sure not to post too much of it online. Once it gets into Google cache and wayback it is there for good.
psycheskinner, That is an interesting concept. My story would not have to end where the short story ended. Actually, I am dissatisfied with the ending as it now stands. My story does lend itself to going on. I had thought that another novel would carry the story on, but I will think about doing it in this one. Thanks for the food for thought. Please share more as you think of things.
Let me jump into the discussion here with my thoughts, which have been going nonstop since we began this topic. I won't go over what has been said. You can read the various posts for that.
psycheskinner has brought up a very interesting idea. Rather than expanding my current story, I could lengthen it. The current ending would be transitional to the next phase of the story.
If I did this, the story would have a dramatic change from the current ending to wherever I took it from there. I know I'm talking about a story you are not familiar with, so I'll take whatever wisdom you can pass on to me. I mentioned the title to my short story in my post to Nadine. It is still on my profile. I'll leave it at that.
My immediate reaction is - if you didn't feel it needed to go on at the time, it probably doesn't need to go on now!
You've said you can see there are things that need to expand within the story. So I'd recommend working on that first. Then, if that inspires you to take the story forward, go for it. If you add more to the story just because you think you should, it's unlikely to have the same conviction.
Since last night I have given this a lot of thought and ended up at the conclusion you have just stated. I do have some thoughts about the story going further, but I could deal with that at another time, another novel. This one really is a complete story. Very wise and important counsel. Thank you Marisa. Psycheskinner's idea was definitely worth exploring though and I appreciate that input as well.
I'm currently in the second draft phase of a 125,000 word piece, although it's probably going to grow another 50,000 words before I'm happy with the story progression and able to get down to line edits and such like. Honestly, for me, the trick was all about... Sitting at the desk and typing.
It sounds easy when I say it like that, and I know that it's not, but struggling through 100 words when you don't think you can, even if they turn out to be utter tripe when you look over them later, is 100 words closer to your finished novel. It also gets you into the habit of writing when you're not 'inspired' or 'in the mood,' assuming that you want to become a professional, those are things that have to be learned. If not, it's still useful and teaches you to follow through on a big project like novel writing without setting it aside for years like that wonky shelf in the bathroom that you've been meaning to fix since the last time you redecorated.
The other thing I found that helped - and is actually the thing that got my novel over the first big hurdles - is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is a 30 day effort to write 50,000 words of original fiction (1,667 words a day, on average). The official NaNoWriMo month is November, but there are 'Camp NaNo' projects in April and... September, I think. One of those rare 30 day months, at least, so that might be something to look into, if you wanted a deadline and the community support/pressure to really help you get over the line.
Cash, Wow, you have a very long story going there. Good luck with your writing. The NaNoWriMo idea is a great one. I'll read up on it. Thanks for the encouragement. I have the lid off now, so there is no turning back. But I know staying at it is a challenge. Thanks again. Come back and share more, please.
Hello Mr. Cam8510. It is a pleasure to see a writer with love for his work. Congratulations. Keep up the good work. Some day maybe I will buy one of your future novels. Tell me your name and the book title.
Thanks to you.
erorantes, Thank you for the encouraging words. I hope one day I have a book to sell. I want to be careful about mentioning the title of the story. The short version from which the longer will be developed is currently posted here on HP. I mentioned it in another post here, but will do so once more in case you would like to read what I have written. It is called "Who is Abby Jones." It is not a creative title, I realize. I'll come up with something better for the full novel. You can find it on my profile page.
Please understand that I share the title, not to gain page views, but because there may be some who are genuinely interested. If you do read the story, I'd love your feedback. For instance, is this story worth spending more time on or should I move on to something else. I suppose I wouldn't be already working on the novel if I weren't sold on the idea, but I could use the motivation and assurance that I'm not wasting my time.
Oh yes, my name is Chris Mills, book title, Who Is Abby Jones?
The input so far has been extremely enlightening. We've had suggestions about how to organize material regarding personalities and family background, how to sprinkle information about characters in small doses throughout the story rather than all at once, as well as practical suggestions about publishing on hub pages. I'm taking all of this in folks, so keep it coming if you have more. I really appreciate the participation. I'm moving along day by day. This will be a long process, but there will be a book of some kind at the end. I've reread my whole short story, and am more convinced than ever that this will be an interesting and compelling story for people to read.
By the way, just in case anyone looked at the short story on my profile, I did report the number of words incorrectly. I had written another story several months earlier that was 26,000 words. The one I want to expand is only 14,000 words. In spite of this, I can see many places where much more can be told without just throwing in filler. What do you all think about the brevity of the short story I am working from? Is this an issue? I feel that it is not, but I'd appreciate your thoughts.
Is it the story about Abby? If so, I think any story with such history has potential for a full novel. I haven't read all the chapters but it seems that it could be lengthened.
What I would do is expand it chapter by chapter. So the current chapter one, which is about 1,000 words, I would make it 3,000 words, and when I'm finished with that chapter I move on to chapter two. First I would go over the chapter, see what's missing and take notes, then expand it.
Cardisa, yes, the story about Abby. I have been doing exactly what you have suggested. I am working on chapter one now and have reached 2000 words with one more segment to go. I'll probably add new chapters to what I already have in the short story version. It is turning out so far to be a much more interesting story. I'm very excited about this project. Thanks for all your input.
For those who were following this forum topic, I am posting chapters of my unfinished novel on hubpages now. The first part went up on November 12. I hope you have time to read and comment.
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