Tag Archives: developing subplots

Adding Complexity to Your Novel

When writers first get their idea for a novel, that idea ends up being the main plot. The main plot is extremely important because it’s what the novel is about. Without it there would be no story. However, only having a main plot leaves for a simple story. That’s where subplots come in.


Explore all the layers in a novel.

Subplots are very similar to the main plot except that they are smaller in scale. One of the great things about subplots is that they are woven into the story, so if you have moments within your novel where the main plot is slowing down, you can use your subplot(s) to bring tension back into the story.

Another thing that subplots add is believability. Real life doesn’t always move forward. There are constantly twists and turns. How many times have you made long term plans only to find yourself on a very different course? Something nearly always comes up to interrupt your plans, but that adds tension, excitement, and challenges…and, many times, you find you’ve learned something you otherwise won’t have along the way. Plus, subplots are a great way to learn more about the supporting characters.

If you’re a plotter, someone who plots out their novel, even if just in synopsis form, you’ll want to think about subplots as well as the main plot and interject them into your story. If you’re a panster, someone who writes by the seat of their pants (no plotting), you may end up with subplots during your first draft or you may not. Likely you’ll have to go back and fill in your draft with subplots.

Something to be aware of is to make sure that your subplots don’t overwhelm your main plot. The main plot is still the star of the show. Let it shine.

How do you go about handling subplots?

(Photo courtesy of The WVb.)

Jinkies! My Word Count’s Too Low: How to Increase the Length of Your Novel

Most word count problems deal with too many words. However, novels with too low of a word count do happen.

Just adding more words to your novel isn’t going to help, especially if you’ve got a good plot and subplots, believable characters, and a solid story. The first thing to do is to look at your target audience. For a good listing of genre guidelines, follow this link http://bit.ly/QuU7KS. It’ll lead you to Literary Rejections Word Count article.

After looking at that, if your word count is still too low, here are some things you can try:

  • Further develop a subplot. Subplots enhance the main plot. However, some subplots may be more meaningful than others, or may have larger consequences that we haven’t explored yet. If a girl sneaks out of her house to meet up with a guy, have her get caught. Show the fallout of that decision.
  • Pace yourself. Sometimes we get so excited with writing our first draft that we rush the buildup to the big scenes. Go back and add more to the buildup, so that when the big scenes and the climax comes the readers are tingling with the same excitement you felt writing that scene.
  • Bring a new character into the story. Introduce a character that will throw the protagonist for a loop. Don’t make the character’s intentions obvious. Maybe this character isn’t who he says he is. Maybe he’s the bad guy in disguise. Maybe he’s actually a good guy, but is made out to be someone to avoid.
  • Look at your ending. Search for any loose ends. Are there situations you alluded to but didn’t continue? If your protagonist took a picture of a suspected terrorist, don’t forget to at least contemplate giving it to the authorities.
  • Obstacles. Don’t just throw obstacles in to slow the protagonist down. Include situations that have an effect. If the protagonist has to cross a swinging bridge, don’t simply have the bridge collapse. Have someone the protagonist cares about get injured or die, or have the new route the protagonist takes introduce something else to the story.
  • Fill in those skip days. There are probably several places in your novel, where you skip over days. You say something like “two days later” or “later in the week.” What happened in those missing days? Sometimes there’s an entire chapter within those skipped days. However, only add a scene or a chapter if it works. If it throws off the rhythm, plot, or pacing of your novel, it may not be the best addition.

A novel that’s too short can be a pain, but spending some time thinking about what to add will help you increase your word count. And I’ll say this, if you end up being like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, word count won’t matter so much. But until you reach their level of fame, or get extremely lucky, it does.

Have you ever written a novel with too low of a word count?