As you may know, I'm working on what I want to be my first novel. However, I've only ever written short stories before. I feel like I'm going too quickly too soon, and won't have a large enough word count. But I don't want to just add fluff. What tips do you have for going from short stories to writing novels?
Ooooh, good question. I actually have the opposite problem—I set out to write shorts and wind up with novels. But here’s what I can sort of retro-engineer to help you out:
  • Ask as many questions as you can, mostly of the why-sort: why does this character do this? Why does this culture do this? Why did history go the way it went, and what do all the characters feel about that? Adding a sense of history is a great way to expand a world—the things that are happening right here and right now are never isolated incidents, they happen because of the characters’ pasts, the pasts of the parents of the characters, the history of the peoples and the settings. And there’s always fallout because of things that have happened before.
  • See if you can mirror and parallel—are there other characters you can introduce that can show differing options of the trials and tribulations of the main characters? Or who can catch the fallout, keeping it close to home and personal? Side characters with as much story as the main characters (so long as it mirrors-but-doesn’t-repeat, complements, works against, or falls out of and comes back to the main plot) add to the story and, by necessity, the length.
  • Look at your plot structure. A short story is sort of along the lines of incident-action-setback-conclusion, but a novel is more like incident-action-setback-action-setback-action-setback-action-setback-sidetrack into other stuff that puts everything else into perspective-action-setback-action-setback-action-setback-conclusion. There’s a lot more space to come up against other characters, other plot happenings, other things that aren’t needed at all in a short, but enrich and inform a novel. Ask yourself if you’re telling enough of the story—and see where you can add in extra meat, not fluff. Are there politics at hand? Is there a wider cultural impact? Is there some other thing entirely that the main characters have to do to get over their issues and be able to save the day?
  • Remember that everyone in the story has their own goals—even baddies. And those goals will lead them down paths that don’t always line up with the main characters, and can even slow down the main characters, or endanger them, or turn them back around, or change the context, or add new meaning, or make it worse.
Does this help? Does it bring up more questions? I’m here to help!