September 15, 2009

When the Story Stops - Asking Authors How They Fill in Their Book

You're an author and writer. You outline, or have the latest book underway. Things are going well, the story is moving along, the outline is figured out and suddenly... gasp! The story runs out!

You thought you had the story worked out and enough situations and scenes to fill the required amount of chapters. Now it seems you may be several chapters short.

So, I'm asking authors: anyone been in this situation? How do you address it?

How did you fill in the gap? What did you add to expand the story without it just being "filler?"

What is needed to fix this kind of situation? What is missing in a book, I'm mostly interested in mystery, that this would occur?

Love to hear your thoughts as I work on my ongoing mystery!


  1. The first thing I do, is outline the entire manuscript in chapter format. I'm not a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I need a road map.

    If a chapter falls short of introducing a new conflict or bringing a previous issue to resolution, I try to create that before moving forward.

    Adding description or conversation will help stretch the word count, but I try not to repeat what has already been mentioned.

  2. This happens to me all the time, Chris. I think it's because I'm used to science/technical writing, where less is better and there are no descriptions!

    What I do: pull out a secondary character and create another subplot. I try to do this in a way that fits with the main plot, of course -- just adding a complication. Maybe there's a relative, or even a background friend whose turn it is to have a problem!

  3. I just watched Dan Brown on the Today show discussing his new book, The Lost Symbol. He told Matt that when he meets a block, he hangs upside down - more blood to the brain, revitalizes him. Hmmm. Must work for him.

  4. It's never happened to me. I've also never been in a contract requiring a specified number of chapters. Range of word count, yes, but I knew that going in. I tend to write linearly. That is, the outline is gradually expanded from say, 35 pages of bare bones action. It's in the revision process where I immerse myself in the characters motivations, nuances, bits of detail, etc. so that by the end of the first revision the story has grown to around 50,000 words. Second that third revisions expand to 80-100,000 words. Then the next number of revisions reduce the story back to somewhere around 75,000 words. no problem. I love revising.

  5. Yes,actually this annoying sort of thing has happened to me. Sometimes I realize I'm missing a character (and later I can't believe I ever tried writing without that person included.) Sometimes, believe it or not, I go to my recycling pile (all the scenarios I've written that didn't quite fit into the book I was doing at that time) and find exactly what I need. And most of the time I just go take a nap...


  6. Well thank you all! Very inspiring; a frustrating dilemma to be sure. Glad to hear others have encountered this! Guess the people need a few more problems!

  7. Outline? What's that?


  8. My two cents is write an alternate ending, completely different from the one you envisioned, and see where it takes you from there. It may open your plot up to new characters or possibilities which will add length, if you need it.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin