Currently, I’m back to adding in new material to the second book, based on feedback from my agent. When I submitted the story to him, it was approximately 75,000 words – or 313 pages long. He loved it, but said towards the end, right after a major event happened to my protagonist, that it seemed like it went a bit too quickly. He felt the book could be around 85,000 words and still be a compact read. The main thing about this… it didn’t bother me in the least to know I had to add more to the story, I thought, “that won’t be too hard.”
Why not? Here’s what I came up with…
This morning on my run, I was thinking about the process of adding to an existing story and how, once you have a completed profile of your characters, it’s like playing cards with the full deck. It’s not so much about the number of words/pages you have to go back and add, or even about the new parts of the storyline you may include…but more about having knowledge of these “people” you have created, their personalities and what they are supposed to be doing. Once you have all of them figured out = a full deck of cards.
I’m not much of an outline person when it comes to the overall story because I like to write “at will.” But, when it comes to character development, yes, I do like to have those details nailed down. I’ve got it in my head as to their likes, dislikes, the color of their hair, eyes, nervous tics, if any, talents, fears, temperament, etc.
Having the characters established makes adding in new stuff easier and like shuffling a deck, you can see what it all looks like once you have a good hand (i.e. a new chapter added). You can even strengthen that hand by laying cards down, picking more up, re-shuffling if necessary. (remove parts, add, revise) As writers, we are told to allow ourselves to “write badly,” but just get it all down, figure out who’s who and what will happen to them. We know we are going to get to go back and change things – always.
The full deck analogy works whether you are in the beginning of your story, the middle or at the end. If you have these fully developed characters, any adjustments and/or changes will come naturally and more easily. Try playing a game of cards with several missing, you may get by with a hand or two, but eventually, a card you need won’t be there.