I am ready to revise my first draft to get it from 4,000 words to long enough to be a decent length for a novella. Any tips for an underwriter like me
Usually, let it rest for some days or weeks.
Change the format, like using another font or layout.
Then read again. Reading aloud helps. How does it sound? Does it turn on your imagination?
You could try to snip your 4000 words into small pieces, like single sentences or very short paragraphs.
Read them one at a time.
Let them sit for a while.
Do they speak to you, turn on your imagination? → expand on them, hurry up the action, shore up the story line.
Don’t they? → relegate them to the sidelines (pull them out of your text and let them lie).
Maybe you will come up with less than 4000 words, maybe with more - first round gone.
It depends a bit on in what area you are underwriting. Do you feel like the story already has all the scenes it needs, but they are very short and read more like a sumary of what happens? In that case, make sure that you give the reader a feel for the time and place in every scene … where is the POV character? what do they see, hear, smell, taste and feel? Is it day or night? Have they just gotten up? What’s the weather like? What are they wearing? Not all of those details are important for every scene, but you get the idea. Set the scene for the reader.
If you already have that, but there just aren’t that many scenes yet, ask yourself if this story really should be a novella. If you can tell it in 4000 words and it works, why make it longer? But here are a few things you could consider: should the story start earlier, to give the reader a bit more information about the main character’s backstory and state of mind? Can you show who they are in a single scene before the “inciting incident”, so before the actual story starts? Is there a side character you would like to tell a bit more about? While Ithink for a novella it is still a good idea to stick with one main character arc, that doesn’t mean the side characters shouldn’t have backgrounds, opinions and motivations of their own. Can you add a scene that brings out that side character’s story a bit more (without interruptig or interfering with the main story).
And finally, should you add something to the end? Short stories tend to (and should) end with a bang, right after the final twist or when the final conflict is resolved. For novels or novellas, when we shared so much time with the protagonist, we want to see how they feel afterwards. Are they happy and content? Sad? Dead? (okay, maybe there isn’t that much to add if they are dead … unless, is someone grieving for them? Putting flowers on their grave?) Are they healing from their wounds? Who is with them? You get the idea. Don’t just slam the door in our face, don’t make a hard cut, instead give us something that feels more like a slow fade out.
If those things all feel like they would bloat or blow up your story too much, you should also consider just adding another story for the same character(s). Maybe the 4000 words are only the beginning of the adventure.