What to do When You Can’t Hit 50,000 Words

The outline of your story is done! You’ve planned all the chapters! It should be long enough to hit 50,000 words and be officially called a novel. Maybe it will even hit 60 or 70 thousand! You sit down, excited, and start writing.

You write and write and write, day after day, working hard, putting your time in, and when you type THE END, you check the word count and it’s…34,000 words. Or something around there. It’s different every time, but you get the idea. A lot of times, you just can’t seem to get your book to novel length! It’s a novel length outline. The genre fits novel length size. What’s going on?

Well, here are three tips on what to do when your story doesn’t reach novel length and you want it to.

Tip 1: It’s Still an Outline

Read through your story, and you might realize that it’s not nearly as fleshed out as it needs or could be. It may have a lot of overview telling. Here’s an example:

“They went to the restaurant, got the information they needed from Mr. Jones, and headed back to their base.”

Where as if you rewrote that, eliminating the overview telling, it could be one whole chapter where they travel through their town, meet Mr. Jones, get him to reveal the information they need, duck out the back way when they see their enemies searching for them in the restaurant, and racing back to their base. WHOOOOOSH! Like, 2,000 extra words right there!!

There are other ways that you could flesh out the story other than eliminating overview telling, such as rewriting flat characters or short dialogue, but overview telling is an easy and harmless-looking trap to fall in, but it can really suck a lot of energy out of your story!

So, if shallowly detailed writing is the problem, then it’s time for some heavy revisions, fleshing out the plot, characters, dialogue, and eliminating that overview telling!

Tip 2: There isn’t Enough

Well, you may have outlined your whole story, planned it carefully, estimated how many words each chapter could be, but even so, all that planning doesn’t guarantee that you’ll reach that exact amount of words. Maybe a dialogue scene had to be shortened, or when you were writing that fight scene you felt like if you drew it out any longer it would really weaken the punch of the story. So all in all, the book just came out shorter than you planned.

But never fear! There is another thing about outlining. You may not plan enough, but in a lot of places you probably plan too little! If you just follow your outline and don’t think about expanding that character, or furthering that sub-plot, you’re going to miss out on a lot of thinks that can expand your word count, as well as deepen your story. Remember what outlines are—just kind of rough guidelines. It’s okay to break away from it every now and then if you notice something that it’s missing. The outline is not the story set in stone.

So if you notice that there just in general isn’t enough to your story, look again, and see if there is more to add.

Tip 3: It Wasn’t Meant to be That Length

Your story might not be meant to be a novel. There are such things called novellas. Many, many, many stories are more powerful as novellas, due to the short, powerful punch they give, instead of something long and more drawn out. Both are amazing in their own way, and yours might be better as a novella!

Now, if you are dead set on getting your book to novel length, and you feel like that would be better for the theme and message, then go for it! That’s fine! Try applying the tips above.

But if you feel like you have said what you want to say, that the story has come to a close, and that there is not much more to revise, then step back. You don’t need to lengthen your story just for the sake of lengthening it. That could damage your story a lot. Leave it as it is! That is absolutely okay. Don’t feel pressure into making it a novel.

And there you have it! I hope that these tips are helpful for you as you work on writing your story!

Have you struggled with being unable to reach 50,000 words when you try to write your novel? Have you ever tried these tips before? Have you come up with other methods that work for you? I’d love to chat with you in the comments below!

Enjoyed this? Want more from me? Join my Email List here to recieve writing updates, monthly newsletters, and two exclusive short stories along the way!

10 thoughts on “What to do When You Can’t Hit 50,000 Words

  1. This was really helpful, thanks! Bonus tip: ALL THE SUBPLOTS! Sometimes if your story isn’t as long as you think it should be, try going back and weaving in some subplots and side quests. They’re always fun and a great way to get to know characters 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Heh heh…same actually.
      A while ago I struggled to reach 50,000 but now it’s getting hard to cut my writing down. Maybe I should make a post on how to revise novels that are 100,000+ 😛


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s